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Valorie Antone and Kathryn Whitehead are students in the masters of social work program at the University of Southern Maine.
Why does voting have to be complicated? Some people may be wondering why we’re saying this — essentially you go to the town office and vote! Easy peasy.
Or, in Maine, you can request an absentee ballot and you don’t even need an excuse to get one, whereas in other states you are required to prove a disability or other reason that voting would need to be done by absentee ballot.
So what’s the problem? Well, picture you are homeless, elderly, speak a different language or are disabled. Picture that you have to rely on someone else to support you with all your basic needs including using the internet or sending and receiving mail. Picture you need to have someone read and translate the ballot for you.
With COVID on the rise again, mail-in voting may have been the best option for Maine especially in the southern regions. While people are able to request absentee ballots this does not go without knowing some things about how and when to do this. In Maine there is a deadline to request an absentee ballot, which was Oct. 29 for the November election, which meant you had to either call your local town office or go online to request this. Then once you obtained the ballot, you had to send it in by a certain deadline; either by mailing it in seven days prior to the election or dropping it off in person at your local city hall or town office.
So why not skip steps and save a little bit of time and money by just mailing everyone the ballot for them to send in if they choose? Some states (Oregon, Washington, Colorado and Hawaii) had already previously used vote by mail ballots. This year, 34 states allowed some form of mail-in voting and the number of ballots cast by mail continues to grow.
Mail-in voting can also save money. According to the League of Women Voters, “a 2016 study of Colorado from the Pew Charitable Trusts found that costs decreased an average of 40 percent in five election administration categories after implementing vote-by-mail.”
Another review suggests that, “some states and jurisdictions that have moved to all-mail elections have noted significant savings because they no longer need to spend money for recruitment, training and pay for polling place workers. When Montana considered an expansion of vote-by-mail to administer all elections in 2011, the state’s association of clerks and recorders estimated the move would save taxpayers $2 million each election cycle,” Michael Hernandez wrote for the National Conference of State Legislatures.
Implementing vote by mail would allow people to take their time looking at their ballot and going through it. This is especially helpful for people that struggle with literacy or that speak another language and are not able to obtain a ballot in their language. It increases the amount of people that vote, it saves money and it saves time. While people would still be allowed to vote in person if they wanted, this could seriously have reduced the risk of exposing people to COVID during voting this year.