In the past week, the world has been turned upside down by the coronavirus.
The Dow Jones had its worst percent drop since 1987, and fourth worst in history. All major sports leagues, professional and amateur, have cancelled or postponed their seasons. The president bungled his announcement of some air travel being banned from some European countries in his second ever Oval Office address. He also declared a national emergency.
Italy is in a country-wide lockdown, and it appears more countries will follow. Multiple states have closed down schools, banned public gatherings of 250 people or more and the president has floated the idea of banning domestic travel from certain states. The travel ban, coupled with the Louisiana government and the Georgia government postponing their primary elections worry me the most.
A few weeks ago, I first brought up the president using CO.VI.D.-19 to try to mess with the elections, whether it be through increased voter suppression or just straight postponement or cancellation. Everyone I talked to said that I was crazy and that our institutions would never let that happen, including my Editor-in-Chief. I do not believe them anymore. First of all, our president already used his presidential power to interfere in our elections. He was even impeached over that. He told George Stephanopolous that he would take dirt on his opponents if Russia offered it, while he was in the Oval Office.
In Georgia, Governor Brian Kemp not only postponed the presidential primary, he also cancelled an election to fill a judicial seat in the Georgia Supreme Court. This was not because of coronavirus, but rather because the governor said that, even though the justice was not stepping down until November, the seat was vacant now and he would appoint someone to fill the seat, after publicly opting to fill the not-even-empty spot himself.
This move has been challenged in court. I bring this up not because Governor Kemp used CO.VI.D.-19 to cancel an election, but rather because he cancelled an election with little explanation. Now, there is a plausible reason to postpone elections, and I fear we are just seeing the beginning of the postponements (or cancellations). Louisiana postponed their April 4th election by months, but they had plenty of time to transition to a vote-by-mail system.
Our president has never hid his autocratic tendencies, from ignoring court orders to purging his intelligence staff of people he did not deem loyal enough to him. If this year's coronavirus is similar to the Spanish Flu, it will disappear in the summer and then come back significantly worse in the fall. If that happens, if in November CO.VI.D.-19 coronavirus reappears and makes it untenable for people to vote in person, we have alternate forms of voting available.
The House of Representatives needs to pass a bill mandating no-excuse mail-in ballots to be available in all fifty states. Our election in November needs to be protected. As the world gets more insane, and city, state, and country-wide lockdowns become more common, we must protect our elections.
The House of Representatives need to pass a bill now mandating that all states offer no-excuse absentee ballots and all citizens need to be hyper aware of any efforts to mess with our elections. This will be harder as things get crazier, but it is crucial.
Anna Hickey is a second-year C.L.E.G. major in the School of Public Affairs. She serves as Chief Editorial Columnist for the Agora.
Image courtesy Mary Grace Heath, Creative Commons