VOICES: Vote by mail critical for those with pre-existing conditions

Category:  Opinions
Sunday, September 13th, 2020 at 3:33 PM
VOICES: Vote by mail critical for those with pre-existing conditions by Samantha Mannion
Photo: Abstrakt Xxcellence Studios from Pexels

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, voting by mail is going to be critically important for the upcoming 2020 General Election. People with pre-existing conditions — like auto-immune disorders, diabetes and asthma — need to be extra careful in this pandemic because if contracting coronavirus, they can be more likely to die or become severely ill. This means that they need to limit any outings to stores, restaurants and polling places. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) even has a list on their website with conditions that put you at further risk with COVID-19.

I know this firsthand because I deal with two auto-immune disorders and have to be constantly conscious of what I do. I am one of many people who will not be able to go to a polling place this election due to the possibility of overcrowding and lack of distancing. Even with a mask, for me it’s too risky to go in person. 

In years past, mail in votes have typically been used for absentee ballot purposes. People who couldn’t be in their home district the day of the election — due to things like vacations, moving or studying (think students) — could vote this way. This year, things look a little bit different. They have now made mail-in voting more largely available due to the pandemic. According to The Washington Post, though, Indiana, Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Tennessee and South Carolina do still need an excuse to vote by mail.  

Over the course of the last several elections, vote by mail/absentee voting has increased in popularity greatly. According to the U.S. Election Assistance Committee, the popularity of absentee/mail in voting has increased from 12.1% and only being absentee in 2004, to a combined 23.6% in 2016.  

You can apply to vote by mail in multiple locations. Places like vote.org or voteamerica.com give you the ability to apply for mail-in voting. They go state-by-state, providing instructions and links. Both the Democratic and Republican party headquarters for Erie County will also walk you through the process over the phone. The deadline to apply for mail-in voting in Pennsylvania is 5 p.m. on Oct. 27, Oct. 31 in Ohio, and it must be postmarked by Oct. 27 in New York. 

On vote.org, you have to go to the menu and then scroll to the state you’re registered in. You then put in your information and they send you your application in the mail. Voteamerica.com has a similar system in place. On this website, you just go to “Vote by mail” on the homepage and put in your information. If you scroll to the bottom of the page, they also have state specific application requests.

For Pennsylvania vote by mail requests, you can go to pavoterservices.pa.gov to request a ballot. I personally got mine through a women voters group called Supermajority reaching out to me via text. It could be as simple as not ignoring what seems like spam.  

There are some who have trepidation with voting by mail, and that’s understandable. The Washington Post says that 671 mail sorting machines have been recently removed by the U.S. Postal Service. It's unclear if that will have an impact on vote counting. Charles Stewart, for The Washington Post, outlined additional faults to watch for, including: mail failing to reach its destination and incorrectly filled out ballots. It's worth noting that rumors that there's "rampant fraud and that mail ballots favor Democrats," have both been disproved by research, according to that same publication.

The Associated Press says that the Postmaster General Louis DeJoy was also subpoenaed over postal service issues. The AP stated: “He has appeared before Congress twice in recent weeks to testify about the removal of the agency's blue collection boxes and mail sorting machines, as well as changes to trucking operations and overtime hours that postal workers say are resulting in delays. Amid a public outcry, DeJoy said he halted some of the changes until after election.

There is a way around any possible problems. You can hand deliver your vote to a ballot dropoff box, therefore circumventing the USPS entirely. According to eriecountypa.gov, Erie County's is at the courthouse located at 140 W. 6th St. in Erie. They also say you can hand it in to your local voter registration office. These places will most likely be less crowded and you will be able to avoid any USPS hassle. Erie’s voter registration office is located at the courthouse. The next closest office would be 903 Diamond Park in Meadville. Venango County’s is located at 1174 Elk St. in Franklin. Mercer County’s is at 120 Diamond St. in Mercer.  

If you are more susceptible to getting COVID-19, or interact with someone who is, please consider voting by mail for the safety of yourself and others.

Samantha Mannion is a staff writer for The Spectator. She can be reached at edinboro.spectator@gmail.com.

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