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Tuesday, April 28, 2020

Should Voting Be Life-Endangering in the U.S.?

Do we have to kill people in the process of voting? Is exposing voters to the serious possibility of a deadly pandemic virus enough reason to postpone an election?
That’s what the folks in Wisconsin are wondering. Compelled to proceed and cast ballots April 7, they’re hoping to survive the experience after mingling with other, possibly infected, voters at polling places in their primary election.
They’ve had two weeks to think about it and/or get their affairs in order. That’s the incubation period. Does that make sense? Hardly.
At the same time, after the Wisconsin polls closed, that left people in 23 of the 53 states and protectorates (like Puerto Rico) yet to vote. They represent 80,707,054 of the country’s 331,002,651 people, including Oregonians, Pennsylvanians and New Yorkers who haven’t yet voted.*  
Hold on a minute. Elizabeth Warren withdrew from the presidential race before Wisconsin. And Bernie Sanders dropped out and endorsed the remaining opponent, Joe Biden, a week later.  The big races, the headliners, are over before they even started for one in three voters. Does that make sense? Not to a lot of people, including Oregon’s U.S. Senators Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley.
They want to hold national elections by mail. Oregon and nine other states already do it that way. No polling places. And while they’re at it, they may want to take a look at creating one day—just one—for that election so nobody gets left out, either by calendar or by virus.
If their effort fails, then more and more people will have their lives threatened merely by casting a ballot. But wait! President Trump and his Republican cronies who have constantly striven to hold down voter turnout oppose vote-by-mail. Why? Clearly, more people voting spells pain and problems for Republicans.
Oregon, as it has with the Bottle Bill and Public Beaches, is way ahead of the curve on this one. Twenty years ago we had our first all vote-by-mail election, and we’ve repeated it many, many times. Fraud is very, very low, if it exists at all. Nobody has died in the process.
There is no better time to implement this procedure nation-wide. Yet another adjustment forced by Covid-19. And, in this case, a positive one. 
*Others include Montana, New Jersey, South Dakota, Nebraska, West Virginia, Indiana, Kansas, Connecticut, Delaware, Maryland, Rhode Island, Alaska, Louisiana, Washington, D.C. and Wyoming.
Read about the national vote-by-mail proposal introduced by Sen Ron Wyden in the Oregonian