By LaKeshia Myers
No matter where one falls on the political spectrum, it is abundantly clear that Wisconsin needs to implement measures to ensure our Fall elections are safe and accessible to all voters. To date, there have been no concrete plans to ensure accessibility to the ballot box for the August and November elections. Wisconsin voters are left with two options: requesting an absentee ballot online or voting on election day. As multiple sources try to predict the news regarding the ever present COVID-19, many voters are wondering if the August primary will be a repeat of the April election—hours long lines, mass confusion and limited polling locations. I can only hope not.
On the national stage, advocates on both sides of the aisle have praised the use of a mail-in ballot system where all registered voters would be sent an absentee ballot request form. This system has been used in states such as Iowa, Georgia and Nebraska. The only person who has openly railed against the mail-in process is Donald Trump. According to USA Today, “Trump, who has railed against vote-by-mail for weeks, took his assault a step further Wednesday, threatening to withhold federal funds from Michigan if it “illegally” sends absentee ballot applications to the state’s citizens before its primary Aug. 4 and the election Nov. 3. He blasted Nevada on Twitter, calling its plan to send absentee ballots to all registered voters before its primary June 9 a “great Voter Fraud scenario.” I find it very odd that the president would call mail-in ballots fraud when he utilized mail-in ballots for his own primary vote earlier this year. Multiple news report also stated that most secretaries of state said they made the proactive move to send applications not only to educate voters about the option but to encourage them to vote by mail to avoid the health risks of voters flocking to polling sites and standing in long lines on election night.
Personally, I believe mail-in ballots are only one part of the solution. I wholeheartedly believe wide-spread early voting and same-day voting should also be an option for individuals who choose to vote on election day. If we truly intend to make voting an equitable process, ensuring early voting, absentee, and election day voting opportunities exist at multiple locations is paramount. Having a three-pronged approach ensures that every Wisconsinite will have access.
To rely solely on voters to apply for an absentee ballot online assumes all Wisconsinites have access to quality internet service—and we know this to be an issue for people across our state, especially individuals in rural communities without broadband access. To only require everyone to stand in line and vote only on election day places the community at much greater risk of contracting COVID-19; and having only a mail-in ballot option is subject to human error due to hiccups with postal mail, human interaction and adequate processing time. Having a three-pronged process and coupling this with massive early voting is key to ensuring all voters are engaged and have the ability to cast a ballot on Aug. 11 and Nov. 3.