Time for everybody to vote by mail
If you dared suggest, just a month ago, that the coronavirus would result in such a massive dislocation -- no restaurants or stores open, except for grocery stores; schools and colleges shut down; no Broadway plays; no concerts; no opera; no ballet; no Major League baseball season; no March Madness; no NBA playoffs; maybe no NFL season; no Summer Olympics; no Sunday church services; no Easter celebration -- nobody would have believed you. Yet it's all happened.
Well, maybe we couldn't see COVID-19 coming, but we can see this coming: There's no way we will have the reality or lingering fear of the coronavirus behind us by November 3. So every state, beginning NOW, must prepare for the 2020 presidential election to be conducted ENTIRELY BY MAIL.
A lot of people are already nervous about November, and with good reason. Because so many governors, for legitimate fears of the coronavirus, have already delayed their state's primary elections. Because we still have no idea when things will reopen and how long it'll be before people feel comfortable about standing in line to vote. And because there's no doubt Donald Trump would simply cancel the election if he could, which he can't.
It should be easy to adopt vote-by-mail nationwide, but it won't be. It's up to each state to decide. And today, despite its proven advantages, only five states -- Colorado, Hawaii, Oregon, Utah, and Washington -- vote entirely by mail. You don't need to get a doctor's excuse or request a ballot. Every voter automatically gets a postage-paid ballot in the mail, which he or she can mail back or drop off at a designated voter center. Easy-peasy. And, no surprise, in 2018 voter turnout in those states was 10 percent higher than the national average.
Five other states -- Arizona, California, Montana, Nevada, and New Jersey -- encourage vote by mail. Once you request a mail ballot, you automatically receive one, as long as you vote regularly. Again, no hassle, no excuse required.
But here's the problem: that leaves 40 states which do everything they can to discourage vote by mail, either by requiring a special application for every election, both primary and general, and/or demanding a doctor's excuse, or not setting up locations where voters can drop off their absentee ballots.
Why the stubborn opposition? Two reasons, the phony and the real. The phony one, as so many Republicans argue, is that vote-by-mail is fertile ground for voter fraud. Which is total nonsense. Oregon's been voting by mail since 1998. There's ZERO evidence of fraud in Oregon or any of the other nine states that now encourage vote by mail.
The real reason is that Republicans don't want everybody to vote. Let's be honest. That's why they earlier tried to ban or limit early voting, require voter ID, or shut down polling places, and now oppose vote-by-mail. Because they know that the higher the turnout, the more people who vote -- especially the more young people and people of color vote -- the less chance they have of gaining or holding onto power.
That's so undemocratic most Republicans would never admit it publicly, but not Donald Trump. He said it out loud. Asked about pending legislation in Congress to fund states to adopt vote-by-mail, Trump told Fox and Friends: "The things they had in there were crazy. They had levels of voting, that if you ever agreed to it, you'd never have a Republican elected in this country again."
By the way, he's wrong about that, too, as he's wrong about almost everything else. Look at Utah. They vote by mail. They have a Republican governor, a Republican-controlled state legislature, and two Republican senators.
As absurd as it is, Trumps' purely political argument may have been tolerated at one time. But no longer. Because today, in light of the coronavirus pandemic, when it comes to vote-by-mail, the issue is not whether it helps Democrats or Republicans, but whether it saves lives. Which it definitely has, and definitely will. It is inhumane and immoral to require that Americans risk their lives in order to cast their vote. Voting should not be a matter of life or death.
Vote-by-mail is effective, easy, and safe. Just ask Donald Trump. Unable to jet down to Mar-a-Lago for yet another round of golf, he voted by mail in the March 17 Florida primary. What's good enough for Donald Trump is good enough for you and me.
(Bill Press is host of The BillPressPod, and author of the new book, "Trump Must Go: The Top 100 Reasons to Dump Trump (And One to Keep Him)." His email address is: firstname.lastname@example.org. Readers may also follow him on Twitter @billpresspod.)