Since the first day we all heard the word “coronavirus,” our immediate goal has been to “flatten the curve.”
If we make it that much less likely that the coronavirus will jump from one person to another at any one time, we may avoid the most frightening possibility, that we would have so many cases at the same time that the the health care system would become overwhelmed and collapse.
Now it is time to apply that same logic, and at least as much effort, into saving, not our health care system, but our very democracy.
Utah, to its credit, is among the leaders in shifting all of a state’s balloting to a default mail-in system. It works. It is not susceptible to fraud. It creates a paper trail that can be audited later if the need arises. And, most importantly, it increases voter participation, a key to having a legitimate democratic government.
One problem has been that too few voters have taken advantage of the new system. In 2016, many people didn’t mail in their ballots early. They didn’t mail in their ballots at all, reflexively showing up at a reduced number of polling places on Election Day and clogging the pipes.
If that happens this year, with both a tightly contested presidential election and an open Utah governor’s seat on the ballot, it could be a real mess. That is even more of a concern as the president of the United States makes bald-faced statements about how he wants the United States Postal Service handicapped so it can’t handle the strain of an all-mail election.
So, it’s time to flatten another curve.
Utah makes it relatively easy to register and to vote. There’s a state website and individual county websites with information and means to register totally online if you have a Utah driver license. The registration process can also be done in person or by mail. County election officials must have your registration information in hand by Oct. 23 if you want the rest of the process to go as scheduled, though you can register at any early voting location or on Election Day.
Utah’s voter ID requirements are not unreasonable, allowing the use of either a government photo ID, like a driver license, passport or — this is Utah — concealed carry permit. Or, if a voter lacks that, proof of name and address such as utility bills, auto registration or government checks paired with a birth certificate or Social Security card can do the trick.
Ballots will be mailed from the various counties between Oct. 13 and Oct. 27. If returned by mail, they must be postmarked no later than the day before the Nov. 3 Election Day. Or voters can drop them off at elections offices or at any of a number of secure drop boxes throughout the state.
Government can only do so much. It is up to each individual voter to make the process work. Get registered. Or check to make sure you are already registered. Look for your ballot. Read and follow the instructions carefully so there’s no risk of your ballot later being disqualified.
And, while one benefit of mail-in voting is the opportunity to peruse and ponder, don’t take too long.