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It’s time for Utah’s leaders to make their voices heard on vote by mail

Patrick Kilbourn drops of his mail-in ballot at the Salt Lake County Government Center in Salt Lake City on Tuesday, Aug. 13, 2019.

The coronavirus is leaving Americans worried about their health and the health of their families. This fear is expected to lower voter turnout this November. One easy solution to keep Americans safe from the coronavirus and allow them to vote is using vote by mail.

Vote by mail, the voting system used by Utah for years, is under constant attack by the president, despite the fact that he himself has voted by mail. Utah’s lawmakers, especially Sens. Mike Lee and Mitt Romney, need to speak up and show the country that not only is vote by mail commonsense for conducting an election during a pandemic, but is a secure way of voting. As the Senate continues its deliberations on what will be included in the next coronavirus aid package, our senators have the responsibility to make sure funding for vote by mail is included in the bill, so all Americans can feel as safe as Utahns this November.

While many states offer no-excuse absentee ballot voting, some states have very restrictive absentee ballot voting requirements, and only a handful of states have universal vote-by-mail systems (Utah, Washington, Oregon, Colorado and Hawaii). Utah established a statewide vote-by-mail system in 2012. Declining voter turnout left Utah officials concerned and looking for solutions. The solution was found when Republican state Rep. Steve Eliason sponsored legislation that allowed counties to voluntarily conduct elections by mail. Both parties believed vote by mail would increase turnout, benefiting their party. This led to strong bipartisan support for Eliason’s bill.

Research shows vote by mail does not give either party an advantage over the other but it does consistently increase voter turnout overall. While claims of voter fraud are all too common, voter fraud is actually quite rare. According to The Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank, Utah has not had any cases of fraudulent uses of absentee ballots (mail ballots) since it shifted to conducting elections almost entirely by mail. Millions of votes and several years later, the state continues to use vote by mail, with high voter turnout and zero fraud.

Utah shows there is a better and a smarter way to vote, and the time for our leaders to start advocating for vote by mail is now.

Recently, Romney spoke out in favor of vote by mail, dispelling the myth that it only helps Democrats. He said, “In my state I’ll bet 90% of us vote by mail. It works very, very well. And it’s a very Republican state.”

We need the voices of Lee and Romney right now. As we are rapidly approaching November, Congress must act quickly to appropriate funding to assist states in implementing vote by mail, so all Americans can vote safely in November.

More Americans will be voting by mail this November. Reliably Republican states such as Texas, Alabama and Georgia are not wasting time and are already making preparations to accommodate more mail-in ballots. All states will need additional federal funding to ensure their voting systems are up to the task. The states making accommodations for no-excuse absentee ballots and vote by mail will not only ensure a timely tallying of the votes, but will also protect their voters’ health by limiting unnecessary crowds on Election Day.

Now is the time for Lee and Romney to ensure federal funding for vote by mail is included in the next coronavirus aid package. Utahns know that come November, they will be protected from unnecessary election day crowds, lowering their risk of being infected with the coronavirus. It is time that all Americans had that same confidence.

Bryant Holloway is a resident of Provo and a Program Associate for the pro-democracy organization Stand Up Republic.