Vote by mail is simple. Vote by mail is safe. Vote by mail is secure.

It’s a sad statement of our current political affairs that I must write a defense of our Democratic institutions. For some reason, voting by mail is becoming a partisan issue. With most Democrats supporting it, while many Republicans are lining up against it.

This is partly triggered by President Trump’s blatantly false and misleading tweets about voter fraud. I find it interesting that it’s completely fine for the president, vice president, and his administration to all vote through absentee ballot, but not for the rest of the us. Whether it be gerrymandering congressional districts, overreaching voter ID laws, purging voter registration rolls, underfunding election offices, or these latest attacks on voting by mail, this is all part of the GOP’s ongoing efforts to disenfranchise voters, carry out systematic voter suppression, and subsequently reduce turnout.

Let’s debunk any concerns or myths about casting your ballot through the United States Post Office.

The president and the GOP must’ve missed the memo on the fact our brave men and women of our armed forces have voted by mail since long before many of us were even alive. During the Civil War, the first widespread use of non-in-person voting took place. According to NBC News, around 150,000 Union soldiers voted absentee in the 1864 presidential election. The same outlandish claims of fraud and abuse were stated then as they are now. Interesting, that by World Word II, all soldiers were allowed to vote remotely using absentee ballots regardless of what state they hailed from. If it’s good enough for those who lay down their lives in defense of our freedoms, it should be good for the rest of us.

According to NCSL, a total of five states actually conduct their elections entirely through the mail: Colorado, Hawaii, Oregon, Washington and Utah. Moreover, at least 21 other states conduct all-mail elections for local races like school board. Guess what? No major issues. No widespread fraud. Zero evidence that voting by mail is less secure than in-person voting.

The exact opposite is true, we actually see a number of great benefits to moving in this direction. Because of the convenience of taking all the time you need to fill out your ballot at home, we’ve seen reports of increased voter turnout. In the states that expanded their mail-in voting operations, they saw a decrease in costs associated with the election. To recap: it saves us money, increases voter turnout, and in the middle of pandemic, could keep people from getting sick. What’s the problem here?

I recently voted by mail and it was a great experience. Our local town and city clerks running the process do a masterful job. They take all the necessary precautions to ensure your absentee ballot gets counted. In Saco and Old Orchard Beach, both communities even put out a secure drop off box for ballots right outside both city/town hall offices. If you don’t drop it off, you do have to pay for postage. Also remember to turn your ballots over to check for other races and items and to sign the back of the envelope. There are a number of things on the ballot from the U.S. Senate race, bonds related to broadband internet and infrastructure, to our local school budgets.

In the Legislature, I’ve long fought for expanding ease and access to voting. There shouldn’t be barriers to fulfilling your civic duty. This past session, I co-sponsored legislation to make early voting easier. LD 2067 ‘An Act To Authorize the Automatic Continuation of Absentee Voter Status until the Termination of That Status’ would’ve added Maine to the many states already automatically mailing out absentee ballots to folks who repeatedly request it. While this bill didn’t pass, we should always aim to reduce administrative redundancy to save time, tax dollars, and make it easier for people to participate in our Democratic process.

During this public health pandemic, the best way to participate in the upcoming July 14th Primary Election is to vote by absentee ballot. It presents zero risk to you, your neighbors, the poll workers and volunteers. Will I miss seeing everyone at the polls? Of course. Do I value the experience of going to the ballot box? You bet. Back in college I was hired as a poll worker in Saco. It was an incredible experience. Knowing all that goes into the process behind the scenes and knowing how much interacting with people is unavoidable, this election cycle should be entirely through the mail.

You can request your absentee ballot online at VoteInMaine.com or by contacting your local clerk’s office. You can reach Saco at (207) 284-4831 and Old Orchard Beach at (207) 934-4042. Voting by mail is simple, safe, and secure and should be something we expand beyond just responding to COVID-19.

Justin Chenette is serving his second term in the Maine Senate representing Saco, Old Orchard Beach, Hollis, Limington and Buxton. He is the chair of the Government Oversight Committee, co-chair of the Democracy Reform Caucus, a member of the Environment and Natural Resources and Ethics Committees, and serves on the Maine Climate Council’s Coastal & Marine Working Group. He is also a Citizen Trade Policy Commissioner. Outside the Legislature, Justin is in real estate at the Bean Group, owner of a digital marketing firm, and is vice president of Saco Main Street. Follow updates at justinchenette.com.

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