On ‘Absentee Voting’

By Aimee Berger-Girvalo

“While we can’t predict what November will look like, we can act now to expand our voting options…”

“No one should have to choose between their health and safety and their right to vote, and we still have time to ensure that this isn’t the case in November…”

Across the country states have expanded access to absentee voting in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic, and Connecticut wisely followed suit and expanded this right for our Primary elections in August.

But if we want to make sure all voters can exercise their right to vote in this November’s General Election, our state’s leadership needs to act now to extend absentee voting, and expand election day registration sites. This is the way we preserve our democratic process while keeping everyone healthy and safe.

It would be irresponsible to willingly go the way of Wisconsin, where Milwaukee voters earlier this year had no choice but to vote at one of five polling locations (down from 180) in person — risking themselves and others while waiting in line to vote. The issues with in-person voting during this pandemic have been made clear: the CDC says that indoor gatherings are still among the riskiest activities, and forcing voters to wait in long lines, touch common surfaces, and be in close proximity to others are unnecessary measures. Election workers, many of whom are of retirement age, will be at an even higher risk of infection.

We are not out of the woods yet when it comes to the threat of COVID-19. This pandemic has taken a toll on all of us, but it’s through our collective action — wearing masks, staying home and practicing social distancing — that we’ve been able to protect each other. Connecticut, and Ridgefield, have done an admirable job in addressing COVID-19 and flattening the curve. But we need to stay vigilant and take common-sense steps to ensure that our communities don’t face another wave of infections.

While we can’t predict what November will look like, we can act now to expand our voting options. It would be irresponsible to diminish voter rights and participation in elections, and the cost associated with expanding absentee voting is an essential expenditure to uphold our democratic process.

It goes without saying that this is one of the most important election cycles of our lifetimes. We’re facing unprecedented economic and public health challenges, and voters have the chance to decide who will lead us on the path to recovery. We’ll be voting in the Presidential election this November, and turnout will be very high and lines for in-person voting will be long. It is our responsibility to consider the risks we impose on others and to weigh whether those risks are necessary. Forcing voters to show up in person, when voting absentee is safe, reliable, and secure, is an unnecessary public health and safety risk.

Some people have expressed concerns about the possibility of voter fraud in a vote-by-mail system. I understand those concerns — we should be taking every precaution to ensure that our elections are as secure as possible. But the data on absentee voting doesn’t back up allegations of increased fraud. States that have been voting by mail for years, like Washington, have seen no indication of widespread fraud. Absentee voting is a time-tested and reliable way to vote.

No one should have to choose between their health and safety and their right to vote, and we still have time to ensure that this isn’t the case in November. The Connecticut legislature should take action now to expand vote-by-mail to the General Election and increase the number of election day registration sites. The safety of our election workers and voters — not to mention the integrity of our democratic process — are on the line.

Aimee Berger-Girvalo is an advocate and dedicated community volunteer who has lived in Ridgefield for 15 years. She is running for State Representative in Connecticut’s 111th.