Editorial: Voting is still your civic duty, even during a pandemic

In light of the COVID-19 outbreak, many states have postponed their primary elections to follow social distancing policies. Pennsylvania is likely to follow suit, as the state House and Senate will vote on a proposal to move the primaries to June 2 this week.

Keeping this in mind, it’s vital that everyone who is registered to vote in Pennsylvania — and for that matter, anywhere else in the United States — keep track of the date of any and all upcoming elections and prioritize voting. 

So much has happened over the past month or so — from schools shutting down to counties ordering residents to stay at home — and voting in primary elections may be low on the list of priorities. Additionally, as primary dates get moved around and pushed back, it seems easy for people to lose track of when they’re supposed to vote, or to simply become apathetic.

College students especially may face setbacks in the primary voting process as some may live out of state, but are registered to vote in the state they attend school in. These students have likely been sent home and are adjusting to the shift to online classes. 

In the face of this pandemic, it’s understandable that people may not be thinking as much about voting or how they’re going to handle upcoming elections. When dealing with unprecedented events like this, it makes sense that we are mostly preoccupied with adjusting to changes in our daily lives, including changes to work and school.

However, the reality is that even when this pandemic ends — and it will — politics will still be here. The politicians who are elected in the midst of all of this will still be in office. It’s vital that these politicians accurately reflect the views of their districts and states, but this cannot happen if people don’t vote.

This is why it’s vital that everyone does what they can to prioritize voting over the next several months. If your primary has not already happened, check if it’s being pushed back and make note of the date. 

There are ways to make the entire process easier on yourself. For those who want to vote in person, re-registration may be an option. While voter registration deadlines vary between states, there may be some adjustments made to accommodate those facing the choice between voting absentee or re-registering. 

For example, in Wisconsin, a federal judge extended the deadline to register to vote online in an effort to curb the number of absentee ballots that are requested.

“It is apparent that some accommodation is necessary to preserve citizens’ right to vote amidst this unprecedented public health crisis,” the judge wrote after publicizing his decision.

A similar motion is in the works in Ohio, as the League of Women Voters of Ohio and Ohio A. Philip Randolph Institute submitted an amicus curiae brief asking the state to extend its voter registration deadline. Other states may follow suit to allow citizens to re-register and lessen the demand for absentee ballots.

For those who won’t be able to re-register, and/or those who no longer live in the state they’re registered to vote in — out-of-state college students, we’re looking at you — requesting an absentee ballot remains an option. The application takes about 10 minutes, and if the request is granted, the ballot will be mailed to your primary residence. 

Ultimately, it’s up to the individual how to handle voting during these unprecedented times. All we ask is that everyone make a serious effort to make sure their vote is counted. Even in the face of a pandemic, voting remains our civic duty.