Should Mail Voting Be Expanded? | Opinion

As coronavirus continues to wreak havoc across America, and as states deliberate how best to hold primary elections, many are increasingly concerned about the general election this fall. How are we, as a society, to balance the competing concerns of democratic participation, electoral security, fraud prevention and personal health?

This week, J. Christian Adams of the Public Interest Legal Foundation and Hans von Spakovsky of the Heritage Foundation debate Wendy Weiser of the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law about whether mail-in voting should be expanded for the general election this fall. We hope you find it both entertaining and enlightening.

Josh Hammer, Newsweek opinion editor, is also a syndicated columnist, of counsel at First Liberty Institute and a popular campus speaker.

Ballot drop-off box in California

Some Americans need absentee or mail ballots. The sick or physically disabled, for example. Or those who are overseas serving our country in the military or the diplomatic service. And others who, for quite legitimate reasons, won't be in town on Election Day.

But moving to all-mail elections would be dangerous. Ironically, it would likely disenfranchise many voters—the opposite outcome of what proponents of such a change desire.

Vote-by-mail ballots in Washington state

To Protect Democracy, Expand Vote by Mail

This year's primary elections, to-date, have served as both a high-stakes test of voting during the coronavirus pandemic and a preview of challenges that Americans may face in November. The results were unsettling: resource-strapped election officials struggled to handle a surge in demand for absentee and mail ballots, and voters—disproportionately black and Latino voters, according to reports—faced hours-long waits at polling places.

If this was a dry run for November's election, it was a very bumpy ride. It made clear that states still have a lot of work to do to prepare for a general election in which illness and social distancing protocols will create challenges at polling places—and in which record numbers of voters will likely try to cast absentee and mail ballots. It also should put to rest any disputes over whether states should expand absentee or mail voting during the pandemic. They must do so.

Mail ballot drop-off in Nevada
Mail ballot drop-off in Nevada Ethan Miller/Getty Images