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My Turn - An all-mail election?
Thomas Vaughn

As the coronavirus continues to wreak havoc on our nation, and with the 2020 presidential elections coming Nov. 3, some so-called “political experts” are warning us that President Trump may try to use the virus as a rationalization to postpone the presidential elections, and remain in office beyond Jan. 20, 2021.

These pundits are entitled to their own erroneous opinions. However, the fact is President Trump has no legal authority to postpone the elections. Why? Because the 20th Amendment to our U.S. Constitution clearly states in Section 1, “The terms of the President and Vice President shall end at noon on the 20th day of January.” Ratified on Jan. 23, 1933, it is now the law of the land. And that law requires compliance by President Trump and Vice President Pence.

That said, I believe it is time to prepare contingency plans for “all-mail elections," aka vote-by-mail. Five states already conduct all elections entirely by mail: Colorado, Hawaii, Oregon, Washington and Utah. At least 21 other states have laws that permit certain smaller elections to be held by mail.

In my view, based on research, voting by mail offers three possible advantages. First, voter convenience and satisfaction. We can vote at home and take all the time we need to study the candidates and the issues. 

Second, financial savings. State and local jurisdictions may save money because they no longer need to staff traditional polling places with poll workers and equip each polling place with voting machines. A 2016 study by Pew Charitable Trusts of Colorado’s all-mail results “found that costs decreased an average of 40 percent in five election administration categories across 46 of Colorado’s 64 counties.”

Third, increased voter turnout. Convenience and satisfaction lead to greater voter participation, especially among “low propensity voters, those that are registered but do not vote as frequently.”

So much for the possible advantages of all-mail voting. What about the possible disadvantages? First, it would deprive voters of the civic experience that comes with the tradition  of voting with their friends and neighbors at local polling places.

Second, all-mail voting could result in voter coercion by family members and others in favor of their candidates.

Third, all-mail voting may delay the final count, especially in states that allow ballots postmarked by Election Day to be accepted and counted well after their elections occur.

Given the dire circumstances wrought by the coronavirus, isn’t it time to debate and discuss the relative merits of all-mail voting in the 2020 elections? I believe it is. 

In the words of Francis Bacon, do so,“Not to contradict and confute; nor to believe and take for granted ... but to weigh and and consider.” 

That is the path to wisdom. Hope for the best, but prepare for the worst.

Retired Army Col. Thomas B. Vaughn can be reached at