Earlier in the year and in late 2019, the Republican party in the US has been suppressing voters and voter turnouts through voter roll purges and the passage of voter ID laws. Since then, attempts at voter suppression have increased in this new age of COVID-19. The latest battle over voting is over vote by mail, where instead of lining up at the polls on election day, voters would instead fill out a ballot at home and mail it in. The refusal by Donald Trump and the Republican party to allow vote by mail in the November election is a form of voter suppression, as the threat of COVID-19 may keep voters home in November, and then lack of a vote by mail system will not allow these citizens to exercise their fundamental democratic right to vote without putting their health at risk.
The presence of COVID-19 has created many concerns regarding both the remaining primary elections for the Democratic party and the general election in November. Some states, such as Ohio, have switched their primaries to an entirely vote by mail system, where anyone who wants to vote “will have to do so with an absentee ballot” . Some states such as Wisconsin however have neither postponed their primary date nor switched to vote by mail, and voters “are discouraged or frightened about casting in-person ballots as they practice social distancing” . Failure to expand the ability for citizens to vote in times of crisis is a danger to democracy. Voting is essential to democracy, and even in extraordinary circumstances it is imperative that citizens be allowed to vote.
Furthermore, the response by the Federal government regarding the general election in November has mixed at best, and an intentional threat to free and fair democracy at worst. As part of the phase 3, $2 trillion stimulus package, House Democrats’ proposal “included $4 billion for election security grants and would have required all states to relax registration rules, extend early voting and guarantee absentee ballots for all voters” . However, the version of the bill that was passed includes just $400 million to aid states in deploying the 2020 election “but doesn’t spell out any specific changes to voting that need to be made” . In order to make the expansion of absentee ballots work, ample funding must be provided so that it is as easy as possible for citizens to be able to vote. There cannot be unnecessary hurdles that will in turn themselves be forms of voter suppression.
Additionally, this refusal to specifically aid the 2020 general election and make vote by mail available to everyone has been spearheaded by President Trump. In an interview with Fox & Friends on Monday, March 30, responding to a question about the proposals from Democrats to increase funding for absentee ballots and vote by mail, President Trump said, “The things they had in there were crazy. They had things — levels of voting that, if you ever agreed to it, you’d never have a Republican elected in this country again” . In his answer, President Trump clearly states his intent to suppress votes in the November election. Trump says plainly that if more people can vote in the election, it threatens his chances at reelection. So rather than safeguard democracy in this time of crisis and make voting available for every citizen, Donald Trump and the Republican party would rather use COVID-19 to further their efforts to suppress voter turnout.
Thus, the lack of funding for expanded absentee voting and vote by mail for the November general election is a deliberate form of voter suppression by President Trump and the Republican party. Voting is an essential right and the most important aspect of democracy, and the right to vote must be protected during a crisis. Citizens should not have to put themselves and their health at risk to exercise their right to vote. The United States already has absentee ballots, and this system must be expanded to every citizen, and made easy and accessible, so that everyone may vote in November. Goulding, Gage. 2020. Ohio residents will cast their vote in the primary election with an absentee ballot. WTOV9.  Todd, Chuck. 2020. Wisconsin’s election clash is a warning for November. NBC.  Merica, Dan. 2020. Coronavirus pandemic intensifies Democrats’ vote-by-mail push and ignites longstanding fight over voting rights. CNN.  Blake, Aaron. 2020. Trump just comes out and says it: The GOP is hurt when it’s easier to vote. The Washington Post.