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The history behind mail-in voting and its prevalence in the 2020 election

Cait Kemp

Nov. 3 has come to be one of the most talked about days of the year, and it hasn’t even happened yet. The 2020 election is approaching quickly, and the importance of voting is serious. 

The importance has been emphasized with the option of mail-in ballots, which seems like a new option in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic, but is a practice that has been implemented other times in history. 

The 1864 election was the first time that citizens were offered a mail-in voting option, as the country was in the middle of the Civil War. Many northern states changed a law that required in-person voting so that soldiers who were out on the battlefields were still granted their right to vote, as stated by NationalGeographic.com. 

During World War II, absentee voting became prevalent again where both presidential nominees encouraged military voting. According to History.com, a law was put in place, the Soldier Voting Act of 1942, to allow all military members to send their votes from overseas. 

In the ‘70s, states began to offer mail-in voting to all citizens without an excuse such as illness, and Oregon became the first exclusively mail-in ballot state in 2000. Over 150 years since the first mail-in ballot, the importance of voting is still being recognized. 

Now, in 2020, the struggle to get to the polls is just as relevant, but it is a challenge because of a different type of war – the pandemic. Anywhere and everywhere, mail-in voting is being advertised and information is displayed for people to see. 

On Instagram, a banner at the top of the page advertises voting, and gives information about how to register to vote and how to request a ballot in the mail. 

Mail-in ballots are a major option this election year because many people are unable or feel uncomfortable going out to the busy polls with Covid-19 still looming. Without them, many would probably not end up voting, due to the difficulty to either face the virus in person, or go through the process of switching to an absentee ballot. 

Voting by mail is as easy as a quick sign up online, and it will be mailed directly for individuals to fill out and send back before Nov. 3. 

This election season, there are multiple options that people can choose from to vote. The in-person voting option still remains in many states and cities. 

There is early voting in some states, where residents can go to their local voting location to vote on a date that is before Nov. 3, making it easier and accessible to more people. 

Next are the options that do not require people to congregate in a public location. Absentee ballots are an option that must be registered for by someone who will not be in their city and able to vote in person. 

This is normally seen among people who travel, students away at school, someone who may have a disability or illness, or anyone who is away from home for another reason for a period of time. 

Mail-in voting is the option that we are newly seeing this election, that allows for anybody to mail in their ballot. With all of these options, it is the hope that as many people as possible will cast their vote for the president of the United States. 

This election feels monumental. The many events occurring in the country surrounding the presidential campaign have surged the urgency to vote. 

Whether red or blue, both sides are pushing for citizens to cast their votes in order to make change within the nation. With the multitude of options available, the decision to vote should be a no-brainer. 

Photo: Cait Kemp/The Student

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