With the scare of 2nd wave of Coronavirus pandemic on the horizon, Pennsylvania vote by mail system is going to give hope to people to implement their right to vote.
With the pandemic ravaging the nation, the economy collapsing, people being evicted, people losing jobs, the last thing we Americans should have to worry about is our right to vote. So even before all of the economic and emotional carnage, the Pennsylvania State Legislature saw a problem and moved to fix it.
They voted for and implemented a Pennsylvania vote by mail system, their first one that was eligible for every voter. Now, however, there have been economic and political issues that have arisen. Can the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania bring stability to its citizens in these uncertain times with efficient PA mail in ballot system?
The New Law: A Summary of Pennsylvania vote by mail
Passed in October of 2019, Act 77, allows voters in Pennsylvania to apply for a vote by mail ballot, regardless if you can reach a polling station or not. The bill was introduced by State Republicans, who hold a majority in both houses and moved forward as a bipartisan deal. This removed all eligibility requirements and allows all registered voters to apply online to become a voter-by-mail.
The only thing you need to apply as a voter in the Commonwealth is a PennDOT license number. More than 1.8 million Pennsylvania citizens applied. Out of the roughly 10 million voting age-eligible people, there are throughout the state, that is no small feat. Okay great! That should solve all the issues with vote accessibility, and now the vote is open to everyone, in every way. Maybe not to everyone.
Partisanship Strikes Again
In late June of 2020, the national Republican Party and the Trump Re-election Campaign filled a lawsuit in the western city of Pittsburgh. They are attempting to sue the Pennsylvania Department of State to effectively gut PA mail in ballot. They claim that the way the votes were counted was illegal and that voters in 20 counties didn’t have to actually mail the ballots in or hand them to county election officials, but instead drop them off at collection sites.
They also argue that ballots without a secrecy envelope should not be counted. Considering that the Republican Party endorsed and helped right this bill into law in the Commonwealth, shouldn’t we be asking why they do not want this bill of a sudden? It is because the bill was passed before the pandemic and before the vote by mail was a necessary step in stemming the coronavirus pandemic.
It is a perfect example of the hypocrisy of the Republican Party and their mindless leader, Donald J. Trump. They don’t want to vote by mail because the President doesn’t want to vote by mail. Last I checked, this is a democracy and not a country that serves at the pleasure of the presidency.
Another Possible Case of Voter Suppression
The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania is really just a sample of what’s happening in America. Whether you care or not, you’re a Democrat or a Republican, whether you’re black or white, our vote should never be suppressed. Even the way Pennsylvania requires a PennDot license number to just register to vote is a tool to suppress the ability for people to vote. Right now, the Pennsylvania state government has stated that this year, they will pay for postage for the mail-in ballots.
State Republicans don’t want to pay for it, and some groups said that if the state didn’t pay for the postage, then it would be akin to a poll tax. I agree with that statement, as this nation has a long history of suppressing the vote for anyone that isn’t a white male. As taxpayers, we already pay enough that there is plenty of money to go around, and Pennsylvania has been trying to make voting a priority, as it should be.
The Republic Must Have It’s Vote
Nothing is perfect, but in my opinion, the Pennsylvania Department of State is making secrecy envelopes a priority. When you get your ballot, there are not one, but two different envelopes to place your ballot in. This does make it almost impossible to see the ballots unless they are tampered with. As for voter registration, I can say that the way Pennsylvania does it seems a little intrusive. In California, the state doesn’t ask for your license number or social security number.
It feels like another level to cross, another question that the government can ask to keep you from what’s supposed to be a free and open general election. Another thing that I do like about the vote by mail system in the Commonwealth is that you can actually track your ballot. Much like that Amazon package I’m waiting for, I can see when my ballot is going to get to my mailbox, and I can see when the county election office receives my ballot.
That is incredible, that this Department of State has put another level of protection over the ballots, which must be handled with that greatest of care. The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, while the system is not perfect, is at least trying to uphold the most sacred and valued portion of our Republic, our vote.
Preserving Our Rights
The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania was a perfect example of bipartisanship. They saw that the vote could be made more accessible, they created a bill, they passed that bill, and then implemented the system of which to fulfill that need. They did something that they did not know, at the time that would be completely necessary for the future.
Now, we must grapple with the task of keeping people away from each other so they do not get sick. Vote by mail is absolutely the best way to preserve our democracy and fulfill all of our constitutional obligations to vote. The elected officials in Harrisburg came together and implemented a system that is important, even when there is no pandemic.
Let Freedom Ring and Liberty Fly
Now, the officials there are pitted against each other, with the President making a narrative about the vote by mail when it should be a non-issue. We have evidence of that, that the Pennsylvania government came together to make the vote by mail a possibility. It is only when the President changes his mind and declares that voting by mail is not any good that is when it becomes an issue.
In the 2016 General Election, he made no claims about it then, so why now? Because he’s afraid he won’t get reelected, so he is going to make it as hard as possible for regular people who are afraid to grocery shop to vote in a safe manner. Pennsylvania is a battleground state in the general election, but how people vote should not be the battleground.
Let freedom ring and liberty fly, and let the people vote as they wish. That is what living in a democracy is about. We should not let one man control and change the narrative about everything from race to the vote. That is a dictatorship. And Pennsylvania should not be dictated upon by the federal government when the federal government can’t even seem to tell its head from its feet.
Hope for Our Republic’s Future
In conclusion, the vote by mail system that is new to the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania is imperfect, but it is a good basis for which to build upon for future elections. You can track your ballot, voter registration (while intrusive in my opinion) is relevantly easy online, and there are multiple envelopes so no one sees your vote.
The best thing that comes out of this, is that at one point before the President said anything, the elected officials of Pennsylvania came together to make real change. Not many governments in this nation can make real, bipartisan change to their constituents. It is just very unfortunate that the vote by mail system is under unnecessary attack from the federal government and the Republican Party when they helped write the bill.
The Pennsylvania Department of State has a lot on its hands, as does most of the various departments of State around the country, as they prepare for the General Election in November. Let us all hope that Keystone State continues its bipartisan journey, and show the rest of the nation what happens when we work together to solve our issues.