The Atlantic

In the Pandemic, Every State Should Vote by Mail

Voting should not be a matter of life and death.
Source: Robert Clay Photography / Jason Kolenda / The Atlantic

Last week, Wisconsin voters faced a dismaying choice: Exercise their right to vote or protect their health and safety. As the coronavirus spread, so many voters applied for absentee ballots before the April 7 primary that election officials couldn’t send them out in time. The legislature had refused to postpone the election; the courts turned down Governor Tony Evers’s attempt to change the rules by executive order. So voters who hadn’t received their absentee ballot had to go to the polls despite the pandemic; the plight of poll workers went unaddressed. Wisconsin’s case was described as “a narrow technical question about an absentee ballot,” according to the 5–4 majority opinion of the U.S. Supreme Court. It was not. It was a matter of life and death.

The outcome—voters in masks standing in long lines at the polls—was all the more tragic and senseless because states have the option of conducting elections entirely by mail. Five states already do: Colorado, Hawaii, Oregon, Utah, and Washington. Critics of voting

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