A Different Approach to Voting in the Days of COVID-19
Even as the statistics related to COVID-19 are changing daily, Virginia’s curve is still on the upside. We all know that in 2020 we have not only the national contests, but we also have the GOP Party contests. Of course, we want the maximum amount of participation, but we are obligated to protect every Virginian as they cast a ballot.
The following are just a couple of ideas that I think could be practical and helpful, especially in units with higher COVID cases. I thought a different approach could be better than trying to figure out insurance for liability.
No party should expect its members to take this type of risk in the regular methods of voting. To do so, especially for a nomination, is treating them as expendable and that doesn’t send a message that the public and party members would have confidence in. Insisting on it for the sake of outcome is quite literally the most unconscionable behavior imaginable, giving even a perception (in addition to the reality) of how it could endanger human life. Matter of fact, any candidate who thinks a Convention amid COVID is a good idea would basically lose all ability to take to the stage and speak to the “sanctity of life.”
For example, The Iranian regime covered up its own epidemic and made no adjustments to procedures for February’s parliamentary elections because the regime believed virus worries could impact the turnout they needed. The result? Coronavirus burial pits so vast they’re visible from space.
So … maybe it’s time to rethink the Republican Party of Virginia (RPV( processes for this year. It’s too late for an outside state-run primary, and on Saturday, the State Central Committee (SCC) amended the State Party Plan (SPP) in a way that would allow for a different system. So, in my humble opinion, here’s a SAFE option that is inclusive to all, and maintains the fundamental ability to vote:
- Voters print their ballot at home, mark it at home, and fold it at home so the vote cannot be seen.
- Voters also print and fill out the info form / oath / pledge at home.
- Voters drive to one of the pre-determined voting locations, and remain in their car.
- Voters will put their ID up to the glass (window rolled up) for a volunteer to verify against the voter roll, and be checked in.
- Voters will hold the info form / pledge up to the glass for the volunteer to photograph (in counties where the committees deem this necessary).
- If the voter ID, form, and party plan requirements are met, the voter may pull forward and deposit their ballot into a double-locked ballot box. A volunteer could be scheduled as a box watcher.
- When the polls close, the ballot box will be sterilized, and then opened by volunteers in PPE (if they choose) to be counted. I would suggest two counters per location in units that suffer from factional divisions so there is no question as to the integrity of the count. The count from the registration book will match the number of ballots if the volunteers are doing what they should.
Sound extreme? So is the danger to a large number of people who are more susceptible to the extremes of this virus. Don’t believe me? Go sit in any metro ER without a mask … you will then believe. (No, I am not saying anyone should actually do that, but an ER doctor said it a few days ago to emphasize what is really happening.)
So, what about those people who have no printer or internet access?
This could be a second drive-thru voting line, or not. It can be handled in different ways. These are only examples:
1. The drive-thru locations would have one poll worker, working with another volunteer handling the check-ins. If a voter has not filled out a ballot at home, once they are checked in, they would be directed to another part of the parking area and given a sealed ballot that may be filled out and folded in the car, curbside. The ballot is dropped into a plastic bag and placed into the box by either the voter, or the poll worker. A second double-locked box could be used to make the process smoother.
2. Voters can write their choice as well as sign any required statement/info on a piece of paper and a pen given to them by the poll workers at check-in. The paper can be specially colored or otherwise unique to preserve integrity. Each ink pen stays with the voter, in their car, or is dropped into a Peroxide bath. These votes are then folded and dropped into the box in the same manner as above.
Everything is likely to be hand canvassed anyway. Even if they were using an optical scan, these outliers can be handled manually.
An unsafe nomination excludes more voters than the driving-required, paper-required, etc. Standard of review should allow a difficulty if it (1) reduces the risk of infection, (2) is the least restrictive means of reducing that risk, and (3) used only to the extent which is required.
And if the organization for this started now, it could all be done quite smoothly. It’s nothing more than curbside voting for handicapped individuals on a larger scale and would be far more secure than trying to Zoom a convention. Schools have been closed for the remainder of the academic year, and the bus loop at the schools stands out in my mind as a great place for drive-thru voting.
I am suggesting this as a safe alternative in this unusual situation. All of the conventions/contests this year can be completed safely and accurately. It doesn’t need to be a problem; it only needs someone who understands logistics and what an R-O higher than 1 really means.