New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo and Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear have signed executive orders requiring applications for absentee ballots to be sent to all voters. They join 34 states in the United States that allow all voters to vote by mail.
The moves come amid growing concern that voting in upcoming primaries, as well as the general election in November, will not be possible to do safely amid the COVID-19 crisis. This puts voters having to choose between exercising their right to vote and keeping themselves and their families healthy and secure amid a global pandemic. In April, Wisconsin followed through with its in-person primary election potentially exposing hundreds of thousands of voters to the virus. At least 19 Wisconsinites contracted the virus as a result.
“I am issuing an Executive Order to ensure every New York voter automatically receives a postage-paid application for an absentee ballot because no New Yorker should have to choose between their health and their right to vote,” Gov. Cuomo said in a statement.
“While there will be significant education and work required, we are committed to making sure this election will be held in a safe manner while we are in this worldwide health pandemic,” Beshear said.
Mail-in voting is a no-brainer during a pandemic. Voting at home could save thousands of lives, if not more. But more than that, mail-in voting is a no-brainer with or without a pandemic. Why not make it as easy and accessible as possible to vote? Why make people wait in lines for hours, often risking their jobs to do so?
Republicans cite concerns about voter fraud, but there is little to no evidence of any widespread voter fraud. More likely, Republicans simply realize that more people voting – especially those who might have a hard time making to the polls on election days – puts their own candidates at risk. President Trump has already essentially admitted as much.
COVID-19 is of course a terrible tragedy. But the devastating disruption it has brought to our global society also poses an opportunity to reimagine our values and how we set up our institutions. Perhaps one way we will reimagine ourselves is whether and how we ensure that everyone can vote as safely and as easily as possible. Mail-in voting is one powerful way to do so.
Good work New York and Kentucky!