Only partial solution to voting woes

You may have heard, but the West Virginia primary election has been pushed back to June 9. It had already been announced that every eligible voter would receive an application for an absentee ballot in order to keep the state in compliance with social distancing. Which is a good thing, but it seems like only a partial solution to our problem.

Here are a just a few issues:

The state will send everyone an application for an absentee ballot, but some people have already requested and returned their applications. Most of these people will be removed from the mailing list, but because of the natural delays associated with mail, there will be some overlap. So some people may receive their ballots and a second application. The state asks these people to disregard the second application, but it is a little disconcerting to know there are excess applications for ballots floating around out there.

This whole two-part process — four-part, really, when you break it down to first receiving an application by mail, then mailing the application back, then receiving your ballot in the mail, then mailing the ballot back — unnecessarily slows everything down. Why not just mail people their ballots immediately? Make three lists: People who voted early and whose ballots have already been received; people who already submitted their applications, were sent ballots and whose returned ballots are pending; and all other eligible voters. Then send ballots to everyone on the “all other eligible voters” list. This saves both time and money, as now you don’t have to wait for four separate journeys through the postal system, and there’s only one set of postage to pay for.

The state has also implemented mobile voting for certain people living overseas (including active duty military from certain counties) and people with physical disabilities. This is fantastic! But given the incredibly unusual circumstances surrounding this year’s primary (the Virus-That-Shall-Not-Be-Named), West Virginia should give serious consideration to expanding eligibility for mobile voting.

As the economy has taken a rapid downturn, we may see an uptick in homelessness or in people going to live with family or friends. This means a change in mailing addresses. For the record, homeless individuals are able to register to vote. They are usually encouraged to use a shelter’s address as their residence. However, under the current circumstances, they may not be able to go to their usual shelters and, therefore, can’t receive their ballots. The same is true for anyone who may have had to vacate their apartment or rental property. But most people have smartphones (an unlocked smartphone can be found online for less than $50) and access to wifi — even if they have to sit in a restaurant or school parking lot — and they should be given access to mobile voting as well.

We need a full solution to our primary — and likely general — election challenges, not a partial one. Skip the applications; mail everyone a ballot. Expand mobile voting to people who can’t get mail right now. If every vote counts, then make sure every voter has the best chance to be counted.