By: Nikki Ghaemi
On October 5, the Supreme Court reinstated an absentee ballot measure. Absentee voting, also known as mail-in voting, is a form of voting that involves mailing a ballot ahead of time, a method often done by those that cannot go to the polls on election day. The measure, decided in the case Andino v. Middleton, concluded that absentee voters in South Carolina need a signature from a witness on their ballot. This is not a measure in every state, however; California, for example, does not have any witness requirements for mail-in voting. A lower court had previously blocked this mandate, arguing that requiring a signature would subject people to possible COVID-19 infection through interactions with witnesses.
Out of the eight-person court, Justices Thomas, Alito, and Gorsuch (all of whom are right-leaning) voted to throw out absentee ballots that had already been turned in without a witness signature. However, this was not the ultimate decision. The three justices’ extreme vote is indicative of many conservative viewpoints on voting rights, and may give perspective on what the Supreme Court could look like with the addition of Amy Coney Barrett.
Although the trio of conservative justices were outnumbered, their extreme take on this issue marks yet another attempt of voter suppression in America and is a hallmark of the GOP’s approach to voting rights in 2020.
In recent months, voting rights have been a hot topic. With an election just around the corner, many Americans are deciding whether they want to submit an absentee ballot or if they want to show up to an in-person poll on November 3. And thanks to President Trump, there has been major speculation surrounding the security of mail-in voting. In fact, the Trump administration has staged repeated attacks on mail-in voting, another ploy to rally supporters together and against Democrats.
At the Presidential Debate on September 29, Trump called mail-in voting a “disaster” and claimed that ballots were found thrown “in creeks.” Trump has continuously spread misinformation about mail-in voting, and although it is a secure form of voting, the attack has created a general wariness about absentee voting. Many critics believe this attack is due to fear of Biden gaining votes, particularly in swing states such as Florida, Pennsylvania, and Michigan. His statements are ironic considering the fact that he and his family have voted by mail.
An NPR poll showed that about 35% of voters are planning to vote via mail-in ballot, which is actually a smaller number than usual. This result comes as a surprise because it would be expected that during a pandemic, people would opt for absentee ballots to avoid the crowds and risk of COVID-19 exposure at an in-person poll.
Voter suppression is already a large problem in America, a problem that often impacts low-income communities of color. These are communities that generally would skew more left. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), low-income communities of color are at the highest risk of suffering from COVID due to factors such as discrimination, inaccessible healthcare, and occupations that expose them more to the virus. When these factors are put into account, it can’t simply be a coincidence that President Trump is attacking the voting method that these communities will most likely opt for.
The GOP’s attack shines a light on the gross injustice of voter suppression. Our country cannot be considered a true democracy if citizens are not given equal opportunities to cast their ballots and make their voices heard.