By Mary Rider
The upcoming 2020 presidential election and fear of the continuing spread of the coronavirus compelled a group of citizens to stand in front of Idyllwild Post Office on Saturday morning. They held posters and participated in a nationwide effort to highlight the importance of an essential public service — the efficient and timely delivery of mail.
Starting in October, many states will begin sending out absentee and mail-in ballots to registered voters. Voting by mail is not new in the United States — nearly 1 in 4 voters cast 2016 presidential ballots by mail. Absentee and mail-in voting share the advantage of minimizing long lines and potential for a lack of social distancing at polling sites, aside from COVID-19-induced staffing shortages, and faulty voting machines.
Experts say routine methods and the decentralized nature of U.S. elections make it very hard to interfere with mailed ballots.
Jennifer Morrell, an elections consultant, told NPR that “Ballots are built unique for each election. Each jurisdiction will normally have dozens to hundreds of unique ballot styles. Proofs for each ballot style are reviewed and tested to ensure the ballot scanners will read those ballots and only those ballots. Even ballots created on that system from a previous election cannot be read.”
The conservative Heritage Foundation, which has warned of the risks of voting by mail, found 14 cases of attempted mail fraud out of roughly 15.5 million ballots cast in Oregon since that state started conducting elections by mail in 1998. Another positive aspect of this method is turnout rates tend to be higher in states that conduct elections by mail. A Stanford University study found participation increased by roughly 2 percentage points in three states that rolled out universal voting by mail from 1996 to 2018. It had no effect on partisan outcome and did not appear to give an advantage to any particular racial, economic or age group.
Idyllwild Indivisible organized the demonstration at the local post office. The group represents one of approximately 5,600 Indivisible chapters in the United States with the mission “To save American Democracy.”
The first meeting of Idyllwild Indivisible occurred in January 2017. Founding members of the chapter are local residents involved in Idyllwild nonprofits and service organizations. They are educators, lawyers and citizen activists working together to plan and provide a variety of events to inform and lead efforts to defend the Rule of Law, celebrate diversity, support science, preserve the environment and increase civic engagement.
Vigilance and persistence are required to protect the right of every eligible American citizen to vote during the 2020 election cycle. Idyllwild Indivisible will continue to spend time and effort to educate the local community about the safety and wisdom of voting by mail during a pandemic. It is critical Americans believe the validity of the 2020 presidential election and abide by its outcome. The world will watch with rapt attention to see if the United States is able to live up to its name and reputation.