U.S. President Donald Trump greets attendees during a rally at North Star Aviation in Mankato, Minnesota, U.S. Aug. 17, 2020. Picture: BEN BREWER/BLOOMBERG
U.S. President Donald Trump greets attendees during a rally at North Star Aviation in Mankato, Minnesota, U.S. Aug. 17, 2020. Picture: BEN BREWER/BLOOMBERG

By now it should be clear: this will be an unusual election. Not because of the candidates involved, but because of the circumstances under which it will be held. The coronavirus pandemic has exposed the inadequacies of the US voting process, as it has with many aspects of modern life. But this is not an unsolvable problem. Smart planning, key rule changes and federal dollars can produce a safe and secure election that has been our nation’s hallmark.

That’s not to say November’s vote will mirror ones of years past. With voters afraid to go to the polls in person because of the virus, more of this election will be conducted by mail than ever before. Due to changes to voting rules in more than 20 states since the pandemic began nearly 80% of voters will be able to cast ballots by mail. That’s a welcome sea change given that barely 20% did so in 2016.

But that surge created problems in this year’s primaries in states such as Wisconsin, Georgia, Pennsylvania, California and New York. Some ballots arrived after deadlines to be counted. Some lacked the required signature. Some prepaid envelopes had no postmark. Some ballots took days or weeks to count, sometimes because of court challenges, sometimes because of arcane rules for invalidating ballots. But these problems are reasons to improve the system, not abandon it.

That takes money, and Congress did provide $400m in the first round of coronavirus relief. But legislation providing $3.6bn more that election experts deem necessary is stuck in the Senate, blocked by Republicans doing the bidding of President Donald Trump to make voting in 2020 as difficult as possible. Voters must ignore Trump’s attacks on mail-in voting as rife with fraud. It’s not. An analysis of three states that vote primarily by mail found that officials identified only 372 cases of possible double voting or voting on behalf of a dead person out of 14.6-million mail-in ballots in 2016 and 2018. That’s 0.0025%.

Naked politics also fuels Trump’s insistence that we know final results on election night. Most likely, we will not. And that’s OK. Accurate numbers are more important than fast ones./New York, August 15

Newsday

Would you like to comment on this article or view other readers' comments?
Register (it’s quick and free) or sign in now.

Speech Bubbles

Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.