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Saturday, July 4, 2020

Opinions > Editorial

Voting by mail: Should it stay?

Jun 29, 2020

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, most New Yorkers voted by way of absentee ballots in recent school board and primary elections.
According to an article in The Hill on June 7, in at least four of the eight states that held primaries earlier this month, “turnout surpassed 2016 levels, with most of the votes being cast via mail.”
They gave the example of how in Iowa, turnout was up 15 percent from the 2016 primaries, and of their approximately 524,000 votes cast, 411,000 of them were absentee ballots - or 73.7 percent.
The topic of whether or not we should make the permanent switch to voting by mail is not a new one.
In fact, on Sunday night, 60 Minutes ran a 20-minute segment on the topic, highlighting how Oregon has been using the voting by mail successfully for a little more than two decades.

According to The Hill's article, South Dakota, a state whose government is largely Republican, saw a six percent increase from the 2016 primaries, and Montana set an all-time primary election record.
Locally, voting options were increased during this year's Primary Election, held on June 23.
The Sullivan County Board of Elections sent out absentee ballot applications to all eligible registered voters, had a week of early voting as well as had expanded voting hours at the 11 polling places that were open, from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. instead of the noon to 9 p.m.
Other factors that might have affected voter turnout locally were contested races on the Republican ticket for District Attorney as well as the Democratic Presidential candidates.
County election boards received a state grant to cover the COVID-related costs associated with the 2020 Primary - which included the printing and mailing of absentee ballot applications to the 35,251 Sullivan County registered Democratic and Republican voters.
And as more than 1,800 votes were cast by mail, the Governor also expanded the time for certified results to be received by the state, giving local election board 13 days to file their results.
While technology, or in this case voting machines, offer almost instantaneous results once the election is over, as with any piece of machinery, malfunctions can occur.
Also, there is a growing fear of cyber attacks and interference in future elections as more electronic voting and reporting is implemented nationwide.
While our ‘voting by mail' system isn't without its own flaws - and costs - one might surmise that it would be much harder for interference on a larger scale to occur.
While there is a sense of civic duty associated with walking into a polling site and casting your ballot, absentee voting does offer the convenience of not having to travel.
Maybe there's something to this system.
What are your thoughts? Send us a letter to the editor at

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