With the advent of the unexpected global pandemic, panic, and paranoia, the US Presidential election 2020 couldn’t have been undertaken in a worst time and year. With over 200 thousand people allegedly having lost their lives for what the CDC and WHO calls the COVID-19, the election in particular has shifted from the usual normal to a new normal.
One of the main topics of discussion is the alternative and approved option for casting votes. Yes, I’m talking about the mail-in ballots. As opposed to in-person voting, this option seems to provide a relief to votes who are anxious about queuing up people with less social distancing.
Some prominent U.S. senators have dabbled on discussions with the possibility of the 2020 US presidential election being carried out entirely by mail-in votes. A recent report by Okta which examined the state of digital identity concluded that over 67% of Americans favor the use of a mail-in ballot system over in-person voting to prevent and stay safe from the spread of COVID-19.
Why in-person voting much easier?
But the mail-in voting is a lot complicated and frustrating compared to the in-person voting. The main reason would be the various criteria, instructions, and field you have to write or mark on the ballot before mailing it. If you go to a polling station, most of these formalities and data entry would be taken care or even assisted by Poll workers.
Also each of the Fifty states in the US have their own systems and criteria. The states like Oregon, Hawaii, Colorado, Utah, and Washington sends mail-in ballots to every voter and no reason is required. But 28 other states only send a mail-in ballot only if the voter requests it for any reason. However, the 17 remaining states only offers mail-in ballot option if the voter request it considering a list of reasons.
E-voting – The solution moving forward
This is a visionary idea which has been proposed in other European countries in the past. It is an online means of voting which would require an internet connection and a device medium like a smartphone, tablet, or a computer. The voters would have to login to a portal and cast their votes on the specified time and date.
We are not going to delve into the technical process that goes on in the back-end. Let’s just list the pros and cons of this and arrive at a conclusion whether it would work for the next 2024 US presidential election.
✔️ This compared to in-person voting is a lot easier, safer, and accurate with rare chances of a fraud
✔️ Say Goodbye to long queues and waiting time
✔️ No worry about any aggressive poll watchers, violence, or misconduct
✔️ Eligible voters being authorized by a primary indicator such as a Social security number or a Tax ID
✔️ The process would be easy with simple interfaces
✔️ Avoid human contact (social distancing) which is a luxury in the current pandemic situation
✔️ The counting process would be transparent, and we can expect quick results
❌ Though less susceptible to fraud, it is not fully protected from hacking
❌ The government needs a well-oiled infrastructure and Technological prowess to pull this off
❌ Convincing the people to adapt a new platform to vote would be a huge task
❌ Technology and internet hadn’t reach the grassroots level of a citizen even in rural counties
❌ Lack of awareness in people on how to operate technology (especially the elderly)
❌ Smartphone penetration is not at 100%
❌ Foreign interference as most electronic devices are overwhelmingly made by Asian countries (China, India, South Korea, Japan)
❌ New set of laws, policies, and regulations have to be drawn up and bills should be passed by the Congress
While the E-voting seems very ambitious, it is not possible in the 2020 or for that matter the 2024 US presidential elections. Eventually it would be the way forward as we have seen with other major events like filing for unemployment, filing Tax returns, and more. But for now, in-person voting seems to be a working and viable option for elections in the foreseeable future.