Don’t make Floridians risk their lives to vote. Let them do it by mail.
U.S. Rep. Frederica Wilson represents Florida’s 24th District in Congress.
Published April 9, 2020 in the Miami Herald: https://www.miamiherald.com/opinion/op-ed/article241888971.html#storylink=cpy
There’s an awful lot at stake in November, when voters are expected to elect a president, congressional representatives and state and local legislators. They shouldn’t have to put their lives on the line to have their voices heard.
For decades, African-American voters and others who tend to vote for Democrats have had their ability to cast ballots obstructed by voter-ID laws and other challenges put in place to keep them away from the polls. But this year, the public-health crisis enveloping our nation — with no end in clear sight — is threatening this cherished constitutional right for every American voter, leaving millions pondering whether heading to the polls where they could possibly contract the coronavirus is worth the risk.
The good news is that there’s a solution for that: voting by mail.
Florida has allowed constituents to cast no-excuse-needed absentee ballots since 1996 and is one of 33 states, plus the District of Columbia, that permit this form of voting. Colorado, Hawaii, Oregon, Washington and Utah conduct all elections entirely by mail and have seen little fraud. In fact, voting fraud in the United States is extremely rare in any form. Florida’s vote-by-mail system is safe and secure, and voters are even able to track their ballots online to check their status.
As Florida and the rest of the nation grapple with how to handle everyday-life issues during the pandemic, I have written to Gov. DeSantis calling on him to put in place a universal vote-by-mail system, in which everyone would cast mail-in ballots, for the November election. Thankfully, we already have a robust vote-by-mail infrastructure, which could be expanded by reallocating funds designated for polling locations, voting machines, poll workers and other election administration expenditures. Moreover, the CARES Act passed by Congress in March includes $400 million in election-security grants that states can use to expand their ability to conduct elections by mail.
It was heartbreaking to watch thousands of voters in Milwaukee recently putting their lives at risk to vote because Republican lawmakers refused to delay the primary and extend the state’s vote-by-mail period. They were forced to endure long lines and rain; some were turned away as the clock struck 8 p.m. One woman carried a sign that read, “This is ridiculous.”
She was right. These are extraordinary times that require extraordinary measures. That should not include risking our health to cast ballots; too many people already have given their lives so that all Americans can exercise this precious right.