In a year consumed by whirlwind after whirlwind, the pending November election promises to be a Category 5 maelstrom. Nobody knows exactly what it will look like, but we can all smell the crazy in the air.
Much of the attention is being consumed by the presidential election, which kicked into high gear at Tuesday night's debate. But many voters forget there are races down the ballot, at the state, county and local level, that also deserve attention.
And this year, more than ever, voters must have a plan to ensure their ballots are counted. That starts with mail ballots, which started arriving this week. There's been a lot of controversy over mail balloting, much of it undeserved — right-leaning pundits and politicians, all the way up to President Donald Trump, have been saying it's open to fraud and abuse. That's simply not true, and spreading the rumor could actually do more to disenfranchise Republican voters, who in previous elections have always been more likely to vote by mail.
That trend did shift during the August primary elections, but one thing was clear: Mail balloting skyrocketed across the board, largely due to fear of in-person voting during the coronavirus pandemic. Now, however, there's growing fear that mail ballots will somehow be delayed or discarded.
It's hard to imagine local elections officials tolerating that, even for a minute.
Here's how voters can help. They can start by making sure their voter registrations are up-to-date; if they've moved, or want to register for the first time, they should understand that there's an Oct. 5 deadline to take care of that if they want to vote Nov. 3. That's Monday.
Next, people who want to vote from home should get their requests in now if they haven't already received their ballot. When they arrive, voters should read the instructions carefully — voting by mail is not hard, but if a voter skips a step, such as signing the outer envelope, the ballot could be rejected.
Voters should start doing their research on candidates — including those state and local races — as soon as they can. As soon as they feel comfortable doing so, voters should complete their ballots and mail them in. That will allow time for them to travel through the mail, arrive at the supervisors' offices and be checked for any deficiencies — which often can be fixed if there's time before the Nov. 3 election. For ballots mailed in the days right before the election, that window to "cure" any defects simply won't exist.
There is a downside to voting early: Sometimes news about a particular candidate surfaces late in the election cycle, and once a ballot is completed and mailed in, it can't be changed. But in a year defined by the intersection of "unpredictable" and "unprecedented," it's probably better to return those mail ballots early. For those who want the benefit of last-minute developments, there's always early and Election Day voting.
Make your plans. Do your research. Insist that your voice be heard. This year may be unsettling, but voters still have a lot of control if they are willing to take it.
Daytona Beach News-Journal.
REPRINTED FROM THE PANAMA CITY NEWS HERALD
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