By HEIDI JIN
Mail-in ballots will be cast in unprecedented numbers in the upcoming election largely due to safety concerns surrounding COVID-19.
According to analysis by the New York Times, an estimated 80 million ballots will be mailed to election offices this fall, compared to just 33 million during the 2016 election cycle.
Mail voting provides an alternative way for voters to participate in the upcoming election without physically appearing at a polling location. Nine states and the District of Columbia, including California, have already mailed ballots directly to all eligible voters.
34 states allow absentee voting, while the rest of the states require voters to have legitimate excuses on why they cannot show up at a voting booth if they choose absentee voting, as in previous election years.
In California, all registered voters have been mailed a ballot at least 29 days prior to the Election Day. Early voting and other voting options are still available to voters if they prefer in person voting.
Concerns regarding possible virus transmission at polling locations have made states implement mail voting despite opposition from the Trump administration. On the national level, vote by mail has created a political controversy between the Democratic and the Republican presidential nominees.
Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden has expressed his support for voting by mail.
“We have to make it easier for everybody to be able to vote, particularly if we are still basically in the kind of lockdown circumstances we are in now,” Biden said. “It’s going to require us to .. insist [states] provide mail-in ballots.”
Conversely, incumbent and Republican nominee President Donald Trump argues that mail-in ballots increase the risk of fraud since election officials cannot supervise the completion of these ballots. However, research conducted by non-profit organization The Brennan Center for Justice estimates that the amount of ballots cast that will be fraudulent at 0.0009%.
“Mail ballots, they cheat,” Trump said at the White House on September 22. “Mail ballots are very dangerous for this country because of cheaters. They go collect them. They are fraudulent in many cases. They have to vote. They should have voter ID, by the way.”
Disregarding the questioned reliability of mail-in voting, many have predicted that mail-in ballots will encourage voter participation in the upcoming election.
Michael P. McDonald, Professor at University of Florida, said that mail voting will dramatically increase turnout rate since it is easier and more accessible compared to traditional in person voting.
“It’s sort of trite to say that you’re going to have the highest turnout rate of your lifetime or this is the most important election of your lifetime, but it really feels like that,” McDonald said. “I’m still expecting this to have very high turnout in November.”