Our nation is in dire straits. This Coronavirus pandemic is a humanitarian, healthcare, fiscal, and financial crisis, but we must not let this tragedy become a political crisis as well.
Our nation is built on the idea that we are free to choose our leaders. What really unites us as a nation is the virtual sanctity of this idea. Patriotic Americans are people of many different ideologies and faiths. But our nation is informed and united by a shared idea- democracy. In that sense we are a secular nation. So, the worst possible outcome of this pandemic crisis would be to cancel our national elections.
We all saw the nonsense that took place in Wisconsin a few days ago—people forced to risk their lives in order to vote during a pandemic.
There is a better way.
That is why I am writing today to ask everyone to contact their representatives in support of the bill sponsored by our own Senator Ron Wyden and by recent presidential candidate Senator Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota. It is called S-3529 –the Natural Disaster Emergency Ballot Act.
The idea is very clear, simple and doable. Basically, the entire nation would move to an Oregon-style vote by mail system. Around 2008, I served as an observer of our election here in Lincoln County. I was very impressed. Poll workers and observers from both parties worked together to make sure that every valid vote was counted. There were few disputes, and little room for any shenanigans. The results were counted quickly.
Many people may object that such a massive reconfiguration of national elections shouldn’t or couldn’t be implemented in the seven months that remain before the next election. They are wrong.
Ever since the 2000 election recount debacle in Florida, we have known that election systems vary widely from state to state. There is huge opportunity for dirty tricks in many places, and the idea of recounts are almost meaningless given the lack of a national standard. In spite of this, we have failed to solve the problem. The 2004 presidential election was also marred by dirty tricks. The 2016 election was fatally compromised. Still we have done nothing. But we must finally get this right. Wyden’s S-3529 om would do that. So much for the “Should” part.
As to the question, “Could it be done in time?” I think the answer is clearly yes. The fact is many states already have extensive early voting, absentee, and vote by mail options. In most cases it would simply be a matter of setting a clear set of rules and then expanding existing capacity. Of course, it also means getting as many eligible voters on the rolls as possible. The politicized purging of qualified voters must stop!
Since 2016 we have been in a highly divisive national argument about whether the 2016 election was truly legitimate. That argument hasn’t been a good thing for our country. I will spare you my personal opinion. I just want a fair and free election.
The reason for decisive action on the issue of securing our elections is pretty obvious: during this lethal pandemic we hardly want long lines of people at crowded polling sites. We must ensure that Americans can exercise their most fundamental constitutional right—the right to vote.
We have the time, technology, and are smart enough, to solve this problem. If we are going to come out of this Pandemic as a working democracy, we must secure our elections now.
I urge everyone to write to anyone they can think of to forward this message and to urge them to support the Wyden/Klobuchar bill. The sanctity of the vote is one of the last pillars of strength we can cling to. We will never have true prosperity, justice or security if we throw our most precious values overboard in a crisis.