Shelley K. Erickson: Remember in November, voting matters

(John Froschauer | AP file photo) In this March 10, photo, a King County Election worker collect ballots from a drop box in the Washington State primary in Seattle. Washington is a vote by mail state. A new poll from The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research finds Democrats are now much more likely than Republicans to support their state conducting elections exclusively by mail, 47% to 29%.

Voting matters. Voting matters because inequalities have been laid bare by this pandemic. Policymakers at local and national levels are making decisions about health care, employment, air quality and more — now. Who will be making those decisions after November 2020?

November 2020 is an extremely important election for all of us, which may be the understatement of the decade. A high percentage of Utahns voted in 2016, but that represented a low number of eligible voters. If you are eligible to vote but not registered, you can register easily and online.

COVID-19 will continue as a health risk in November 2020. However, Utahns can vote with safety and security in November 2020, because registered voters in Utah receive their ballots in the mail. Almost 90% of Utahans who are registered to vote use this convenient, secure and safe way to vote

Utah is currently one of five states that conducts all voting by mail. This is thanks to legislation passed in March 2012. The benefits are many. Voting by mail increases voter turnout, which is essential to a functioning and robust democracy. Voting by mail allows people whose work schedules do not align with typical polling location hours to vote. Voting by mail is shown to reduce overall costs of elections. Voting by mail (especially during a pandemic) means safer elections for everyone.

Utahns can be assured that voting by mail is secure. Signatures on ballots are examined, ballots are not forwarded by the U.S. Postal Service, ballot envelopes have a barcode for each individual voter, and only one ballot per voter is counted. Claims of widespread voter fraud are inaccurate. Claims that voting by mail only aids Democrats is also inaccurate (Utah being a prime example).

Voting matters and voting by mail matters. For those of us who can and are willing to mail in our ballots, doing so will alleviate long lines at polling locations and reduce the number of poll workers needed. The USPS will deliver ballots without a stamp.

However, we still need secure in-person voting and Utah needs to provide safe and convenient in-person voting for the November 2020 election.

HB3006, which passed the Utah Legislature in April 2020 and places limits on in-person voting, impacts the June primaries only. San Juan County’s provisions to provide voting locations and Navajo interpreters remains intact for the June primaries and for the November 2020 elections.

What in-person voting should look like in November remains to be seen, but there is time, now, to ask those questions and establish that system for those who desire or need to vote in person.

Those who have recently moved (ballots are not forwarded), those who need to register to vote (same day registration), and those without permanent or fixed addresses must have safe and secure means to vote.

Consider the importance of the November 2020 election. Register to vote if you have not. Know that in Utah exercising your right to vote will not mean risking your health and well-being.

Addressing inequalities in health care, employment, air quality, and more means electing local and national policymakers who will fight to make changes. Voting by mail will be a safe way to cast your vote. If you need to submit your ballot in person, do that, too.

Why? Because voting matters.

Shelley K. Erickson

Shelley K. Erickson, Ph.D., Salt Lake City, teaches coursed in public policy and community leadership at Westminster College, Salt Lake City.