Op-ed: Mail-in voting is not as efficient as it appears


Illustration by Madison Boudreau Popovic

Some Americans are concerned their votes won’t be counted if the USPS cannot handle the influx of mail-in ballots.

Madison Boudreau Popovic, contributor

Larry J. Sabato, an American political scientist and analyst, once said, “Every election is determined by the people who show up.” The act of “showing up,” though, has taken on a figurative meaning as more people opt to mail-in their ballots due to the current pandemic. 

People have mailed-in ballots for years, and absentee ballots have become a popular way for many in the military to vote. However, absentee ballots and mail-in ballots have become controversial topics as Republicans rightfully argue that mass mail-in ballots will negatively affect the upcoming election due to the inadequacy of the United States Postal Service

It is imperative to consider the following question: If people can attend protests, or take a trip to the mall or grocery store, then why can’t they physically vote at a polling station? Still, there are some who fear the supposed health risks of going to a polling place. A Forbes article explains that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends citizens think about other ways to submit their votes due to the current pandemic. However, this is unnecessary. 

Dr. Anthony Fauci emphasizes that “there is no reason Americans can’t vote in person for the 2020 presidential election, so long as voters follow proper social distancing guidelines amid the coronavirus pandemic.” He also contends that as long as social distancing takes place, there should be no reason to worry about health risks. Thus, everyone should be able to perform their civic duties in person. 

The American public must not overlook the limitations of the USPS. Even though absentee ballots have been used for multiple elections, the USPS will not be able to process the new influx of mail-in ballots in relation to the presidential election. The postal service released warnings that several states are at a greater risk for longer processing times than others due to their population size, since certain states may have up to 10 times the average amount of mail-in ballots. Therefore, many Americans may send their ballots and not have their voices heard due to the postal service’s inability to meet election deadlines

Voting by mail has been a means of voting for years, yet some states are more prepared for mail-in voting than others. Only five states offer voting entirely by mail, meaning 45 states are unprepared for such voting methods. Those states have “rigorous processes in place to verify and track ballots,” according to a Washington Post article. However, what about the states that are not accustomed to the influx of mail-in ballots? Are there going to be more errors made in those states, causing inaccurate results?  Voting in person may be the only way to ensure that one’s vote truly counts in the 2020 election as many states are not ready for such an increase in voting by mail.

Even though many argue that voting in person is dangerous due to the COVID-19 pandemic, there are minimal health risks attributed to voting at a polling location. Even though many are willing to attend crowded protests and go shopping, those same people are hesitant to go to a polling station. It is evident the USPS is not equipped for such an increase in mail-in voting, and as Sabato said, the best way to vote is to actually “show up” — in a literal sense. 

Madison Boudreau Popovic is a first-year biology and English combined major. She can be reached at [email protected]