The DC Board of Elections held a special meeting today to allow for public comment regarding its plan to mail ballots to every voter and to have only 40 polling locations open throughout DC for the November election – over 100 fewer polling locations than it usually has during an election. The RNLA submitted a comment in opposition to the Board's plan due to its potential to disenfranchise voters.
Determined that the current public health crisis will last through the November election, the Board unanimously agreed to move forward with its plan. Michael Gill, the Board’s sole Republican member, gave caution to the feasibility of the plan but nonetheless consented to move forward. The Board’s Executive Director Alice Miller admitted, “It’s not a perfect process and it’s not going to be” after she laid out how the plan will work. She later added that she believed the plan would work fine but warned of the numerous hurdles and challenges the Board will need to navigate before November for the election to run smoothly.
In submitting its comment in opposition to the Board's plan, the RNLA highlighted the potential for voter disenfranchisement of predominantly poor and minority voters if the election was conducted primarily by mail:
Poor and minority voters prefer to vote in person at rates nearly twice that of whites, even when voting by mail is an option…Rushing to implement an expanded mail voting system, without guaranteeing the reasonable availability of in-person polling sites as an alternative, holds the risk of profoundly changing the makeup of the electorate because minority voter turnout could significantly decrease because of the lack of opportunity to vote in person.
Mail ballots are notorious for their inability to be corrected or “cured” quickly if there are any disqualifying mistakes. These mistakes are often ones that otherwise would not have occurred if the voter was able to vote in person. This results in mail ballots being rejected at far higher rates than ballots cast in person and equates to tens of thousands of voters being disenfranchised every election. The ballots of first-time voters, young voters, and minority voters are rejected at far greater rates, making it even more important that in-person voting and absentee voting by application remain the primary approach this election.
The RNLA believes it would be detrimental to minority and poor voters if the November election is conducted by mail and urges the Board of Elections to refrain from making such a decision.
Click here to see the full comment.