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Amid controversies over testing and respirators, social distancing and stimulus checks, another issue has been bubbling up as a heated partisan battle in our era of pandemic: voting by mail.Amid controversies over testing and respirators, social distancing and stimulus checks, another issue has been bubbling up as a heated partisan battle in our era of pandemic: voting by mail.
Democrats and voting rights groups are pushing proposals to expand access to mail-in ballots as a way to protect voters from spreading the virus and ensuring that millions — particularly African-American and poorer voters who tend to vote for Democrats — are not disenfranchised.Democrats and voting rights groups are pushing proposals to expand access to mail-in ballots as a way to protect voters from spreading the virus and ensuring that millions — particularly African-American and poorer voters who tend to vote for Democrats — are not disenfranchised.
Republicans largely oppose the idea, arguing that vote-by-mail elections could lead to fraud, since voters don’t have to show up in person at a polling place. Across the country, Republican leaders are fighting state-level statutes that could expand absentee balloting and mail-in-only elections and increase postal balloting.Republicans largely oppose the idea, arguing that vote-by-mail elections could lead to fraud, since voters don’t have to show up in person at a polling place. Across the country, Republican leaders are fighting state-level statutes that could expand absentee balloting and mail-in-only elections and increase postal balloting.
President Trump has also voiced another concern, one Democrats believe is a prime motivation for his party’s opposition: Mail-in ballots would make it easier to vote, prompting more people to participate in the election and, they believe, hurt Republican candidates.President Trump has also voiced another concern, one Democrats believe is a prime motivation for his party’s opposition: Mail-in ballots would make it easier to vote, prompting more people to participate in the election and, they believe, hurt Republican candidates.
He’s complained that a national expansion of vote-by-mail and early voting would mean “you’d never have a Republican elected in this country again.”He’s complained that a national expansion of vote-by-mail and early voting would mean “you’d never have a Republican elected in this country again.”
There’s little evidence that vote-by-mail leads to widespread fraud or favors Democrats. Mr. Trump, himself, voted by mail in Florida’s primary election last month and the 2018 midterms.There’s little evidence that vote-by-mail leads to widespread fraud or favors Democrats. Mr. Trump, himself, voted by mail in Florida’s primary election last month and the 2018 midterms.
Even as Mr. Trump rails against vote-by-mail, some Republican leaders are urging their constituents to cast ballots through the Postal Service — a recognition that more voters are likely to embrace mail-in ballots in November.Even as Mr. Trump rails against vote-by-mail, some Republican leaders are urging their constituents to cast ballots through the Postal Service — a recognition that more voters are likely to embrace mail-in ballots in November.
While 28 states offer mail-in ballots, just five currently conduct elections entirely by mail — Colorado, Hawaii, Oregon, Washington and Utah. In Washington, those all-mail elections are overseen by Kim Wyman, the Republican secretary of state. Over the past few weeks, Ms. Wyman and her office have fielded calls from election officials in every state in the country, as the virus scrambled plans for primaries and beyond.While 28 states offer mail-in ballots, just five currently conduct elections entirely by mail — Colorado, Hawaii, Oregon, Washington and Utah. In Washington, those all-mail elections are overseen by Kim Wyman, the Republican secretary of state. Over the past few weeks, Ms. Wyman and her office have fielded calls from election officials in every state in the country, as the virus scrambled plans for primaries and beyond.
We talked to Ms. Wyman about why her party opposes voting by mail, whether the country is ready for a widespread vote-by-mail election and her message to Mr. Trump. (As always, our conversation has been edited and condensed.)We talked to Ms. Wyman about why her party opposes voting by mail, whether the country is ready for a widespread vote-by-mail election and her message to Mr. Trump. (As always, our conversation has been edited and condensed.)
You are a Republican, you support vote-by-mail, and that’s a little bit unusual right now. Why do you think so many Republicans object to voting this way?You are a Republican, you support vote-by-mail, and that’s a little bit unusual right now. Why do you think so many Republicans object to voting this way?
Ms. Wyman: Well, I’m not totally sure. I think that some of it is the perception that a lot of people have that vote-by-mail increases the potential for fraud, and that it could really just be this high level of activity of fraudulent behavior. My response has always been that actually vote-by-mail has a lot of security measures you can build into it. And we have done that here in Washington.Ms. Wyman: Well, I’m not totally sure. I think that some of it is the perception that a lot of people have that vote-by-mail increases the potential for fraud, and that it could really just be this high level of activity of fraudulent behavior. My response has always been that actually vote-by-mail has a lot of security measures you can build into it. And we have done that here in Washington.
At the end of the day, all voting systems are like banks. You build a lot of things in to protect from fraud, you build in a lot of measures to detect it but, ultimately, if somebody wants to commit fraud or if someone wants to rob a bank, they can. And then we have measures on the back end to prosecute that criminal activity. So you hope to deter it and you hope it doesn’t happen, but if it does, you have ways to deal with it.At the end of the day, all voting systems are like banks. You build a lot of things in to protect from fraud, you build in a lot of measures to detect it but, ultimately, if somebody wants to commit fraud or if someone wants to rob a bank, they can. And then we have measures on the back end to prosecute that criminal activity. So you hope to deter it and you hope it doesn’t happen, but if it does, you have ways to deal with it.
Some Republicans are worried that it’s going to hurt their electoral prospects. That’s part of what President Trump has argued.Some Republicans are worried that it’s going to hurt their electoral prospects. That’s part of what President Trump has argued.
My experience with partisan folks is Republicans tend to worry about voter fraud, Democrats tend to worry about voter suppression, and both sides accuse the other side of perpetrating those things. I started as an election administrator before I was elected, and what I found is that the people that are running elections can’t make decisions based on what’s going to help or hurt their party or hurt the other party. It has to be about the voter, it has to be about fair participation, and it has to be about accessible, secure, accurate elections.My experience with partisan folks is Republicans tend to worry about voter fraud, Democrats tend to worry about voter suppression, and both sides accuse the other side of perpetrating those things. I started as an election administrator before I was elected, and what I found is that the people that are running elections can’t make decisions based on what’s going to help or hurt their party or hurt the other party. It has to be about the voter, it has to be about fair participation, and it has to be about accessible, secure, accurate elections.
Every one of us, whether we’re a Democrat, Republican or an independent, or any minor party in there, needs to be working toward making sure our democracy works. What’s at stake right now is much greater than who wins the Oval Office, which party’s going to have control in which chamber. The stuff that we’re looking at is people could lose confidence in our elections. And if that happens, democracy’s at stake.Every one of us, whether we’re a Democrat, Republican or an independent, or any minor party in there, needs to be working toward making sure our democracy works. What’s at stake right now is much greater than who wins the Oval Office, which party’s going to have control in which chamber. The stuff that we’re looking at is people could lose confidence in our elections. And if that happens, democracy’s at stake.
So if you could tell the president something about vote-by-mail, what would you tell him?So if you could tell the president something about vote-by-mail, what would you tell him?
I would say, President Trump, right now and in this pandemic, we are having to consider every option to be able to keep the public safe and keep the voters safe, keep our election workers safe, and not have to make people choose between their personal safety and casting a ballot in one of the most historic elections of our lifetime. We have to come together in a bipartisan way to come up with those solutions so that every person who’s eligible can participate in the November election.I would say, President Trump, right now and in this pandemic, we are having to consider every option to be able to keep the public safe and keep the voters safe, keep our election workers safe, and not have to make people choose between their personal safety and casting a ballot in one of the most historic elections of our lifetime. We have to come together in a bipartisan way to come up with those solutions so that every person who’s eligible can participate in the November election.
Do you think vote-by-mail could work nationally by November?Do you think vote-by-mail could work nationally by November?
I started working in elections about 27 years ago. The short answer to your question is, you can’t just flip a switch and go from real low absentee ballots to 100 percent vote-by-mail. I mean, as we sit here right now, in April, with a November election deadline, I’m not sure you could do it in states across the country.I started working in elections about 27 years ago. The short answer to your question is, you can’t just flip a switch and go from real low absentee ballots to 100 percent vote-by-mail. I mean, as we sit here right now, in April, with a November election deadline, I’m not sure you could do it in states across the country.
In Washington State, we started by letting anyone do an absentee ballot for every election. And that was in 1993. By the late ’90s, many counties like mine and here in Olympia, Thurston County, we’re up to about 60 percent of our voters getting a ballot every election by mail. We would have some elections where 90 percent of our ballots were cast by mail, even in a poll site election. That continued until 2005, when we had a really close governor’s race in ’04, and our legislature allowed counties to move to vote-by-mail. And that really happened because that close governor’s race showed that you couldn’t do both elections well. You can’t do a full-blown absentee ballot to every voter and set up all your polling places well because you’re stretched too thin resource-wise. So essentially, our state wanted to move to vote-by-mail in 2005. It took five years to get all 39 of our counties to move to vote-by-mail.In Washington State, we started by letting anyone do an absentee ballot for every election. And that was in 1993. By the late ’90s, many counties like mine and here in Olympia, Thurston County, we’re up to about 60 percent of our voters getting a ballot every election by mail. We would have some elections where 90 percent of our ballots were cast by mail, even in a poll site election. That continued until 2005, when we had a really close governor’s race in ’04, and our legislature allowed counties to move to vote-by-mail. And that really happened because that close governor’s race showed that you couldn’t do both elections well. You can’t do a full-blown absentee ballot to every voter and set up all your polling places well because you’re stretched too thin resource-wise. So essentially, our state wanted to move to vote-by-mail in 2005. It took five years to get all 39 of our counties to move to vote-by-mail.
It doesn’t sound like you think going to mail-in ballots across the country is even really possible before November. Should that be the goal or should the focus be more on getting as many places as possible to expand absentee options?It doesn’t sound like you think going to mail-in ballots across the country is even really possible before November. Should that be the goal or should the focus be more on getting as many places as possible to expand absentee options?
I don’t think it’s a realistic goal to think that you could get 50 states to all be vote-by-mail by even the November election just because the states are in such wildly different places.I don’t think it’s a realistic goal to think that you could get 50 states to all be vote-by-mail by even the November election just because the states are in such wildly different places.
Between my election director and I, we have spoken, we believe, to every state in the country, either on a conference call or having them call us, and Puerto Rico to add to the list, and they’re all over the map. There’s some states where it would be an easy transition to just go to vote-by-mail, and I think there’s some states where it’s going to be a very heavy lift.Between my election director and I, we have spoken, we believe, to every state in the country, either on a conference call or having them call us, and Puerto Rico to add to the list, and they’re all over the map. There’s some states where it would be an easy transition to just go to vote-by-mail, and I think there’s some states where it’s going to be a very heavy lift.
One of the things that I know my colleagues and I across the country are saying to Congress is that we’re going to need some pretty robust resources to be able to pull this off. Congress included about $400 million in the bill that they just passed.One of the things that I know my colleagues and I across the country are saying to Congress is that we’re going to need some pretty robust resources to be able to pull this off. Congress included about $400 million in the bill that they just passed.
That’s a great down payment and it’s going to help us jump-start a lot of this work, but it’s not knocking on the door of what it’s going to take to actually build them the capacity to deal with increased absentee and mail-in voting. I’ve heard numbers anywhere from $1.2 billion to $2 billion to get to the local jurisdictions to be able to do this. The finances and money would help a great deal.That’s a great down payment and it’s going to help us jump-start a lot of this work, but it’s not knocking on the door of what it’s going to take to actually build them the capacity to deal with increased absentee and mail-in voting. I’ve heard numbers anywhere from $1.2 billion to $2 billion to get to the local jurisdictions to be able to do this. The finances and money would help a great deal.
America’s always kind of crazy in a presidential year, but this situation sounds like it’s completely insane.America’s always kind of crazy in a presidential year, but this situation sounds like it’s completely insane.
I’ve done this a long time. This, I think, is my fifth presidential election. And they’re all high-profile and they all have a lot of stress with them. But I’ve never seen anything like this. Just a side note, with this coronavirus and high-profile election where half the country feels very strongly about the president one way and half feels very strongly the other way, I’m up for re-election. And a targeted race at that. So yeah, it’s going to be a fun year.I’ve done this a long time. This, I think, is my fifth presidential election. And they’re all high-profile and they all have a lot of stress with them. But I’ve never seen anything like this. Just a side note, with this coronavirus and high-profile election where half the country feels very strongly about the president one way and half feels very strongly the other way, I’m up for re-election. And a targeted race at that. So yeah, it’s going to be a fun year.
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We want to hear from our readers. Have a question? We’ll try to answer it. Have a comment? We’re all ears. Email us at onpolitics@nytimes.com.We want to hear from our readers. Have a question? We’ll try to answer it. Have a comment? We’re all ears. Email us at onpolitics@nytimes.com.
We’re sharing some of your dispatches from around the globe about life in the time of coronavirus.We’re sharing some of your dispatches from around the globe about life in the time of coronavirus.
Today, we have Jerika V. Nguyen, a critical care clinical pharmacist at a hospital in Grand Rapids, Mich.Today, we have Jerika V. Nguyen, a critical care clinical pharmacist at a hospital in Grand Rapids, Mich.
Tonight, I offered to pick up an extra shift covering the cardiology floors, where I normally don’t work. Fortunately for our patients, our hospital census is relatively low at this time. I found myself struggling to find enough work to occupy myself: helping out with orders for non-cardiology floors, reading journal articles about investigational therapies for Covid-19 (my part-time job these days), clearing out my email.
Then, a nurse brought in a patient’s home medication for my review. As I looked for a plastic bag to label and store it in, I found a thick manila folder in a drawer labeled “funny file.” It contained printouts of snippets of humorous, anonymous content from patient charts. I had discovered a gold mine:
Patient requesting a Smashburger (olive burger). Carb will need to be covered. The whole burger contains 40 grams of carbohydrates. Have already discussed with nursing.
Acetaminophen allergy reaction symptoms: “I hate the world.”
Substance: aspirin
Reaction class: allergy
Reactions: herpes infection
Source: patient
As I cracked up at my desk, I reflected on how irrational and selfish it was to complain to myself of boredom when hospitals in metro Detroit, New York, and Seattle are overwhelmed. For the last few weeks, I’ve had feelings of anxiety, fear and frustration about the impact Covid-19 has had and will continue to have on the health care system and on all of us. My hospital has been preparing for battle with strategic plans in place for additional beds, meds and staff when we need them.
For now, though? Boredom is a blessing.
Have you come up with a clever way to manage social distancing? How’s that distance learning going? We want to hear it. Email us at onpolitics@nytimes.com. (Don’t forget to include your name and where you live.)Have you come up with a clever way to manage social distancing? How’s that distance learning going? We want to hear it. Email us at onpolitics@nytimes.com. (Don’t forget to include your name and where you live.)
This is pretty impressive.This is pretty impressive.
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