During the COVID-19 pandemic, one duty many Americans enjoy exercising – their right to vote – is at particular risk. This pandemic has the potential to erode access to the ballot box and jeopardize people's health in the process. Just look at what happened recently in Wisconsin – long wait times, poll workers risking their health and people forced to congregate in close proximity in the rain just to exercise their constitutional right to vote. We must do whatever possible to avoid a similar situation in Arizona. The best way to ensure our right to vote is protected and Arizonans don’t risk their lives while doing so is to mail every eligible voter a ballot.
Public health experts and election officials are urging elected officials: do not politicize the coronavirus pandemic. We need bipartisan solutions, not politics, to help us navigate this crisis and ensure that our rights are protected. In Arizona, a group of bipartisan election officials, including the Secretary of State, Republican and Democratic county recorders, have strongly endorsed vote-by-mail for the upcoming August primary and November general election.
No one should have to choose between protecting their health and exercising their right to vote. That's why we strongly support efforts to expand access to mail-in ballots while also making sure in-person voting remains accessible for those who need it. Expanding vote-by-mail will reduce both the spread of the virus and reduce barriers for many historically disenfranchised groups. However, vote-by-mail efforts must ensure accessibility for all voters and not exclude those with disabilities who need accommodations, persons who need language assistance, Native American and rural voters with limited access to home mail service, as well as low-income voters and voters experiencing homelessness.
There are various measures that Arizona officials can implement to ensure that no voter is disenfranchised, and every eligible voter can safely access the ballot and participate in the upcoming elections. By taking these necessary steps, we can minimize exposure to COVID-19 in Arizona communities while ensuring access to the ballot for every eligible voter.
Here are the ACLU of Arizona's recommendations:
- Mail every eligible Arizona voter a ballot and extend the time for in-person early voting to 30 days before Election Day up until 5 pm on the day before the election.
- Require safe and meaningful in-person options for all people in Arizona without reliable mail service, voters who need accommodations, or those who need language assistance.
- Ensure sufficient in-person and mail-in opportunities on tribal lands and consult meaningfully with tribal leaders before approving such changes.
- Offer all language assistance remotely in an accessible manner, including expanding methods for voters to be able to request an early ballot or assistance in their native language, and provide information about the changes to election procedures in all required languages where assistance is required under the Voting Rights Act.
- Ensure people with disabilities are afforded an opportunity to vote-by-mail privately and independently, and include support and information in American Sign Language, braille, and other forms of communication required by the Americans with Disabilities Act.
- Allow any person of the voter’s choosing to collect and deliver sealed ballots, including early ballots.
- Count all ballots postmarked by Election Day, extend the time for completing the count accordingly, and expand the signature curing period for voters.
- Increase opportunities for requesting and returning ballots, including offering many designated ballot return locations located throughout each county.
- Implement social distancing and other recommendations by medical health experts throughout the election process, for both mail-in and in-person voting, to protect voters and election workers.
Without these considerations, the COVID-19 pandemic could create insurmountable barriers to voting for many historically disenfranchised groups and endanger the health of all Arizona voters and their families, friends and communities. These straightforward solutions can help reduce disruptions to our democracy.
It should not take a global health crisis to make voting more accessible for all, but the urgency has never been clearer. We are urging Governor Ducey and lawmakers to act quickly to make it as easy as possible for all eligible voters to vote-by-mail in the August primary and November general election. Now is the time to make sure voters are able to safely cast ballots.