The fate of a fractured country hangs in the balance - with those on either side of the fissure pointing fingers at the other side and espousing them responsible for the rift. Bad blood that has simmered for decades once again boils over into widespread
The fate of a fractured country hangs in the balance – with those on either side of the fissure pointing fingers at the other side and espousing them responsible for the rift. Bad blood that has simmered for decades once again boils over into widespread civil unrest and people taking to the streets. In the backdrop of it all, a temporarily throttled virus that brought the world to its knees is sharpening its teeth while in hibernation, waiting for its opportunity to emerge once again.
It would be difficult for even the most impassioned script writer to conjure up a more dramatic plot than we have seen as reality in 2020 – in fact, they probably would have been immediately thrown off the production team if they tried put forth such a combination of hackneyed, melodramatic elements as a believable scenario in past years.
Never has an election seemed more important than the one we will soon experience in November – and seeing how much has occurred with just half the calendar gone, we somewhat shudder to wonder what the world will even look like another five months from now.
But barring some truly heinous uncontrollable force or some unprecedented act of man, an election will take place – and legislators and civic-minded advocates in Rhode Island are doing their due diligence now to try and ensure that it will be a meaningful and effective one given all the challenges that have presented so far this year.
Widespread use of mail-in ballots saw a trial run during the primaries held on June 2 – as state officials wisely tried to prevent long queues at polling places in the midst of the pandemic. The results were not perfect, but did display some promising data that it could work to scale for the November General Election – where voter turnout is expected to be astronomical in comparison to prior years.
Compared to prior years, where only 5 percent of the total ballots cast in the state were through the mail, 80 percent of the votes tallied in June this year were mail-in ballots. That’s the good news. The bad news is that more than 1,000 ballots were sent too late to be counted and about 35,000 who received ballots did not return them.
Thankfully, the General Assembly is back in session. In addition to very pressing issues regarding race equality that will be front and center before them, our state legislatures must make time to pass the Safe and Healthy Voting in 2020 Act – which will iron out most of the issues that caused such a widespread disruption in effective mail-in voting during the primary.
The Act includes provisions such as allowing more lead time prior to the election to apply for a ballot, the addition of physical drop-box locations to drop a ballot and not rely on the post office, and a 20-day early voting period to enable people to vote in person at their convenience and without worrying about large crowds descending on a polling location for one day.
We would posit that the value of these types of measures should be examined for use even when not in the midst of a global pandemic. Making it easier and more convenient to vote would only ensure more Rhode Island residents the ability to vote – and given that voter turnout has never been especially impressive in Rhode Island, this should be a goal shared by all who want to see our Democracy operate as intended.
If there are any benefits to be gleaned from the coronavirus pandemic, perhaps we may learn how antiquated and inefficient our voting procedures have been – especially as a society with so much technological prowess and tools at our disposal.
We strongly urge our legislators to quickly examine and pass the Safe and Healthy Voting in 2020 Act so that Rhode Islanders can prepare themselves to vote in the November General Election. The stakes are simply too high to have any unnecessary obstacles preventing people from exercising their most basic and fundamentally important right as Americans.