The Coronavirus outbreak has devastatingly shocked our nation, causing the economy to temporarily shut down, sending students home from their designated universities, raising unemployment to record-breaking levels, and preventing normal societal activities from occurring. With the upcoming 2020 presidential election amid us, the virus has introduced challenges regarding electoral processes. “Why Republicans Are So Afraid of Vote-by-Mail” published by The New York Times speaks on President Trump and his Republican party allies’ dire need to prevent mail-in ballots from taking the place of in-person voting. Their partisan beliefs drive their biases towards Democratic voters and wish to limit their voter participation.
Fulfilling one’s civic duty and participating in the vote for president, requires physically showing up to ballot locations in one’s designated city. Casting a ballot and being in a high-risk environment full of individuals in small, crowded spaces, gives the virus a higher potential to spread. Mail-in voting is the procured alternative to troublesome polling stations. As the article highlights, turmoil within the political world is unraveling as the election nears, and Trump and Republican leaders are aggressively fighting this safety measure despite the virus’s contagious nature. Their stern advocacy for the limitation and elimination of mail-in voting is simply unjust and violates the safety of fellow Americans. Although in-person voting is a beneficial tool to increase convenience and ease for citizens, Trump and Republican leaders are attempting to override state-level statues that have the power to make decisions regarding absentee balloting. As The New York Times states, they’re against absentee balloting because they believe it favors the Democratic party, giving them increased opportunity to cast their vote, thus leaving the potential for voter fraud. Limiting voting options as the article states, “imposes restrictions that disproportionately affect people of color, the poor, and younger voters, under the banner of combating voter fraud – which is exceedingly rare.” Meaning, Republicans use “voter fraud” as a mask to hide their ingrained animosity and biases towards Democrats, who encompass the majority of marginalized citizens. In Herron and Smith’s article “Souls to the Polls”, Republican lawmakers are convinced increased convenience voting laws institute voter fraud, allowing marginalized groups to abuse and potentially manipulate election results. Their strong vendetta against voting laws such as an increased number of early in-person voting days and voter identification laws also interferes with the neutrality among parties.
During the current Coronavirus, the political divide between Democrats and Republicans puts American citizens’ health and safety in the balance. The article makes it evident Trump has more inclination to maintain his potential success in the election and secure his position as president than what should be his primary responsibility of keeping American citizens safe. He disregards health officials’ urge for Republicans to drop their resistance measures and support mail-in ballot efforts statewide to eliminate unnecessary human contact. The more that Trump and Republicans dismiss the efforts of states to implement mail-in voting, a bigger wedge is driven between the two competing parties. Party polarization threatens democracy because it further separates ideologies and as Page and Gilens in “Democracy in America?” make it clear, party polarization leads to policy gridlock, making it difficult for politicians to reach agreement on policies. Compromise is difficult to attain with sharp party divisions and in this instance, Trump’s adherence to Republican values and refusal to accept mail-in voting methods increases separation among parties, creating animosity and distrust throughout the population. Republicans’ stubborn belief that eliminating in-person voting for the 2020 election benefits solely Democrats, represents this continuous rise of party polarization in the United States. Inherent disagreement is present within America’s political system and this article highlights the Coronavirus’s increase of partisan competition. I agree with the New York Times in that it’s an irrational misconception that an increased Democratic voter turnout equates to voter fraud. Trump even complains that if early and mail-in voting nationally expands and becomes a utilized method, “you’d never have a Republican elected in this country again.”
Trump’s opposition to mail-in voting is a form of Huq and Ginsgerg’s idea of constitutional retrogression. This is when changes relating to competitive elections, freedoms, and rule of law lead to the incremental decay of democracy over time. In this case, Trump attempts to manipulate electoral processes and remove fair voting opportunities for Democrats. Huq and Ginsgerg are concerned that as elections are manipulated and changed to limit competition among candidates, democratic governance will become more difficult; electoral competition diminishes as voter engagement and turnout decreases. With the introduction of mail-in voting for this election, Trump and Republicans seek to prevent its implementation, thus controlling the demographics of voters. The refusal to recognize and give equal voting privileges to marginalized citizens decreases Democratic turnout, benefitting Trump’s campaign and increasing his chances for future success. Trump catalyzes America’s democratic erosion in that he’s contributing to constitutional retrogression using manipulation of electoral processes and limiting political competition. On April 6th, a USA Today article described the refusal to extend absentee voting by the Supreme Court in Wisconsin, forcing thousands of vulnerable individuals to expose themselves to the potential of obtaining Coronavirus. Associate Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg said, “either they will have to brave the polls, endangering their own and others’ safety. Or they will lose their right to vote, through no fault of their own.”
Avoiding hazardous polling stations and resorting to mail-in voting equates to a more efficient transition into reopening the American economy and resuming normal life. As The New York Times article highlights, Donald Trump’s dire need to eliminate mail-in voting exposes his prime focus on politics and failure to encourage public safety. Restrictive voting makes it difficult for specific groups to exhibit their civic duty, serving as effective barriers limiting legitimate participation from marginalized populations. Trump’s resentment towards the opposing party overrides the morality of providing safe and healthy voting opportunities for many Democrats in a time of tragedy, exemplifying our nation’s polarization.
Rutenberg, Jim, et al. “Why Republicans Are So Afraid of Vote-by-Mail.” The New York Times, The New York Times, 8 Apr. 2020, www.nytimes.com/2020/04/08/us/politics/republicans-vote-by-mail.html.
Wolf, Richard. “Supreme Court Refuses to Extend Absentee Voting in Wisconsin despite Pandemic.” USA Today, Gannett Satellite Information Network, 7 Apr. 2020, www.usatoday.com/story/news/politics/2020/04/06/supreme-court-coronavirus-pandemic-voting-mail-wisconsin/2956183001/.