Will COVID-19 change the election?

By Evan Lynn
May 4, 2020

Sticker Americans get after casting their ballots. Photo by Pexels.

Just a few months ago, we could wake up and go about our day in any way we pleased, but COVID-19 has brought any sense of normalcy in our daily lives to a screeching halt. It has affected everything from the way schools operate to travel plans abroad being canceled for the foreseeable future. It would make sense these changes would also trickle down to the election. One of the greatest privileges of being an American citizen is having the right to vote. Our votes matter and each one of us has the ability and responsibility to help bring upon change in this country if we are unhappy with our elected officials.

For the first time in American history the presidential race has ceased all in-person campaigning. There can be no more rallies or town hall meetings because of the social distancing rules unless done virtually. This means most of the campaigning will now be done online or over the television.

Could the election be canceled?

The good news is Donald Trump cannot cancel the election because of the virus, but according to Zach Stanton, writer and digital editor of Politico Magazine, election experts are terrified the election will continue as planned with no safeguards in place for the American people.

“Large numbers of voters become disenfranchised because they’re worried it’s not safe to vote and that participating makes it more likely they catch the coronavirus. Voter-registration efforts, almost always geared toward in-person sign-ups, bring in very few new voters,” Stanton said. “A surge of demand for absentee ballots overwhelms election administrators, who haven’t printed enough ballots. In some states, like Texas, where fear of coronavirus isn’t a valid reason to request an absentee ballot, turnout drops as Americans are forced to choose between voting in person (and risking contact with the coronavirus) or not voting at all.”

This sign signifies COVID-19 will not get the best of us. There are other options than voting in person.

Ways to protect voters

Pennsylvania has already put some safety measures into place for voters. The primaries were moved from April 28 to June 2 in hopes it would be safer at that point to vote in person. People can now register up to 15 days before the election instead of the usual 30 days. Pennsylvania has something called no-excuse absentee voting in place for voters. It means any voter can request a mail-in ballot and they do not need to give an excuse such as illness or fear of COVID-19 to receive one.

According to Steven Mulroy, law professor in constitutional law, criminal law and election law at the University of Memphis, one of the best things people can do is vote from the comfort of their own home. Their ballot can either be mail in or dropped off at their local municipal office. This will help to cut down on people at the polling stations. One helpful tip for in-person voting is to request a paper ballot. This will cut down on the likelihood of picking up COVID-19 off the touchscreen surface.

No one knows how this election will pan out, but one thing is for certain: this will be a landmark election and one we will remember for years to come because everything we know as normal has changed virtually overnight. The fear of this virus does not mean we should not exercise our rights to vote. Pennsylvania is offering a mail-in option. There is no excuse. Get out and vote in the primaries and the presidential election.

Evan Lynn

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