Cushman: Support Initiatives That Protect Voters


People casting their votes during the Midterm Elections 2018 at the Salt Lake County Building in Salt Lake City, UT on Tuesday, Oct. 23, 2018. (Photo by Curtis Lin | Daily Utah Chronicle)

By KC Ellen Cushman, Opinion Writer


In late July, the postal service sent letters to 46 states as well as D.C. to warn them that the USPS does not have the resources to guarantee that all mail-in ballots cast for this year’s presidential election will arrive in time to be counted. It is expected that with the threat of a global pandemic, many more voters will be requesting absentee ballots. But now, the ballots of over 186 million voters are at risk because of the inability of the USPS to deliver on time. A number of states have moved to address this by changing their laws and extending deadlines for ballot collection. These attempts to mitigate concerns about ballot collection are crucial in preserving the integrity of our election. Every state needs to support initiatives that will protect voters and help them be heard.

The Effect on Utah

Utah is one of few states that votes primarily by mail and has done so for a number of years now. Growing up in a small town in Utah, I learned just how important absentee ballots can be for people in rural parts of the state who do not have nearby polling locations. I lived in a rural area, and my parents and grandparents used mail-in ballots to cast their vote in nearly every election. Utah election officials feel that mail-in ballots for this November’s election are not at risk because of the state’s nearly decade long history of widely utilizing absentee voting, but the consequences of this attack on mail-in voting will impact Utah voters regardless. Attacks on mail-in voting this presidential election are being justified by unfounded claims of voter fraud by the president. These are serious allegations that could delegitimize vote-by-mail and mail-in ballot initiatives in future elections. As a state whose voters heavily rely on mail-in voting, it is crucial that we fight to protect its integrity and our voice in elections.

Working Against the People

The largest problem the USPS is facing is a lack of funding, but, despite election needs, the Trump administration has come out in open opposition to increasing funding to the organization. It’s not as if the president is unaware of the consequences it could have this year’s election. Trump and his top advisors regularly use mail-in voting. But he does not like large scale mail-in voting because it “doesn’t work out well for Republicans,” so he is intentionally blocking mail-in voting initiatives. He is casting doubt on the validity of mail-in ballots — that can protect people from spreading and contracting COVID-19 at polling places — in the midst of a global pandemic.

The role of the president should, to some extent, be to act as a representative of and protector of American citizens. We use our voice to vote the president into office with some degree of trust that they will use their authority to advocate on our behalf. Trump so blatantly and recklessly tampering with our elections for his political benefit, and in a way that could result in health ramifications for voters, is an irresponsible use of the power of the president. There is a lot to disagree about in politics but free, fair well-functioning elections should not be on that list. The right to vote is a critical part of our country, something many have fought and died for. It is important that, if our leaders refuse to support our right to vote, we fight to protect it ourselves. When there are initiatives to protect voting rights, we need to support them.

Potential Solutions

As concerns about mail-in voting for November’s election have increased, a number of states have worked to address potential problems. Officials in Pennsylvania and Michigan have requested extensions for ballot acceptance. Colorado officials are working to educate constituents on how they can make sure to have their ballot counted. Utah voters in Salt Lake City rallied to “save the post office.” Perhaps most importantly, the U.S. House of Representatives voted to block changes that would slow postal service and significantly increase funding to the agency.

The Trump administration’s election interference has been met with significant outcry from the American public as well as officials across political ideologies. We cannot let the voices of Americans be silenced. Efforts to expand voting rights, such as increasing the number of polling places, extending their hours or expanding absentee voting are necessary to guarantee that we all have a voice in the direction of our country’s future. As news about this election scandal began coming out, I couldn’t help but feel disheartened. I feared for the state of our elections this fall and for the state of our politics if a president thinks that they can so openly interfere with our fundamental right to vote. Seeing the national outrage from constituents and officials alike has given me hope that when people act against democracy, there will be people to defend it.


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