Voices & Choices

Vote-by-Mail and Social Distancing Can Work in Harmony

Vote-by-Mail and Social Distancing Can Work in Harmony

It is no secret that many voters and political commentators are frustrated that their ballots cast early for withdrawn candidates were “wasted.” In fact, at this point in the primary, there are currently over 1.5 million votes that fall into that unfortunate category.
It is certainly understandable that people are dismayed, but any anger directed at early voting via mail-in ballot itself is misplaced.
Over the past 25 years, the popularity of mail-in ballots has skyrocketed as numerous states recognize its tangible benefits—such as increasing turnout, saving money, and decreasing wait times at polling places. Now, more than 20 states have laws on the books sanctioning, in full or in part, a form of the method—a number that may increase as states move to the method to mitigate concerns about the novel coronavirus.

In fact, four states are using RCV for the first time in their party-run nomination processes—Alaska, Hawaii, Kansas, and Wyoming—all have vote-by-mail apparatuses that will allow their state’s voters to have a voice in the process.

It is heartening to see the pairing of RCV with mail-in ballots in these contests. The fact that voters can cast their ballots on their own time and be assured that a ballot cast for a withdrawn candidate will not be “wasted” should lead to increased turnout and confidence in the process. In fact, the benefits of this method are especially pertinent given the CDC’s suggestion to avoid public gathering places (like polling stations).
For Alaska’s primary, voters will get the chance to rank their candidates on absentee ballots, as long as they turn them in by April 10th. For Hawaii’s primary, voters have until April 4 to register and request absentee ballots. In Kansas’s May 2nd primary, voters will have the opportunity to rank their candidates and cast mail-in ballots from March 30th through April 24th. For Wyoming’s caucus, Democrats will have the opportunity to use ranked mail-in ballots, which need to be submitted by April 17th.
We applaud the coupling of RCV with mail-in ballots in the four aforementioned states and hope that, in any future expansion of vote-by-mail, RCV is also adopted to ensure that no votes are “wasted.”

Post updated on March 22 due to coronavirus-related developments.



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