For months, the media and politicians have reported that lockdowns, and the surrender of public life with them, are a necessary sacrifice for public health. To disagree with the extent of these lockdowns was to be anti-science. One of the most extreme of these requirements was the call for mail in-elections.
Presumptive Presidential nominee Joe Biden was just one of many politicians who echoed the call for no in-person voting at all.
This argument worked a month ago. Today however, tens of thousands of Americans march in the streets, and have been doing so for the better part of the month. Many are not following social distancing guidelines, and despite initially attacking reopenings, blue states have broadly begun ending lockdowns just as red states have. It’s been possible to visit a barber in California for weeks now. And with Democratic politicians urging people to join the packed protests, Americans have a right to ask why elections alone just can’t be held in person.
A (strained) argument can be made that businesses should remain shut but demonstrating is too important to stop. You can’t, however, argue that protest is a necessary civic duty, but voting isn’t. And you certainly can’t argue that barbershops and dentists are safe to reopen but not voting booths.
So why, despite cognitive dissonance on every level, have some politicians stood by demands that elections can’t be held in person? The answer is because it’s been on the wish list for a long time. Mail-in elections are a long time Democratic goal, with many politicians and media outlets alike believing they boost both voter turnout and political wins. While the research behind this idea is less straightforward than they realize, there’s no question that the DNC wants mail-in voting regardless of Covid-19.
The current protests have exposed the “public health concerns” surrounding voting for what they are- a political strategy. Voting is certainly as important as demonstrating is, and with the proper precautions it can be much safer too. If you want to argue for mail-in votes, there’s a cause to be made. But don’t claim the pandemic has anything to do with it.