Some Wisconsin residents stood in line for hours to vote in their primary election. According to The Guardian at least 50 of them have since tested positive for COVID-19. Imagine what could happen when millions vote in November. If we want to have secure, efficient voting without risking our heath, we must make plans now.

Nonpartisan organizations like Common Cause and the League of Women Voters are among many promoting legislation to enable voting by mail. There are television ads advocating such. Senator Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota introduced and Senator Ron Wyden of Oregon co-sponsors S.3529, the Natural Disaster and Emergency Ballot Act (NDEBA) of 2020. It lets people vote by absentee ballot during the virus. We can support it by urging Senators Gillibrand and Schumer plus Congressman Reed to push for it.

Sadly, however, President Trump thinks absentee voting invites fraud and has recently threatened to withhold funds from Michigan and Nevada for enabling voting by mail. Thus the likelihood of NDEBA passing both houses of Congress and being signed by the President is zero.

Fortunately, another option is executive orders by governors. Gov. Cuomo used one to enable us to vote safely by absentee ballot in our June primary in New York; Gov. Gavin Newsom has done the same for California for November. He takes personal responsibility for preventing people from risking their lives in order to vote. 

There is much we can do to promote this solution. Thank Cuomo for his executive order enabling us to vote by absentee ballot in June and ask him to do the same for November. Contact friends across the country to urge their governor to do that, too. Ask them to urge organizations from churches to county legislatures to join the effort. Approach officers in the National Association of Governors to challenge their members to bring safety to their constituents by enabling voting by absentee ballot, state by state.

With a concerted, coordinated effort we can do this and make a difference. We simply have to, because democracy is at stake.

Susan Multer

Town of Ithaca

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