Despite the U.S election being under a week away, the country is still firmly in the grips of the Covid-19 pandemic which is wildly out of control. As a result, many U.S citizens have turned to ‘mail-in’ votes, in order to protect themselves from picking up the virus. In fact, this election is projected to see the highest number of votes by mail.

However, the combination of a slow postal system, and staunch republican court rulings, are potentially going to leave millions of these votes unaccounted for, throwing a country that prides itself on freedom into a shadow of despotism.

According to MSNBC, 29 states use ‘mail-in’ voting. Of those 29 states, 28 of them have six to seven day backlog of the post. The rule for votes via post is that they must be accounted for by election day. Even if you have sent out your ballot on time, the backlog will mean your vote is not counted.

The rule of having a mail vote accounted, or timestamped by election day has been ruled upon by the U.S Supreme Court, in what has been seen in many quarters as a pre-requisite for suppressing ‘mail-in’ voters, of which a large proportion are democratic supporters. Of course, this would not be a problem if the postal system in the U.S worked at an acceptable pace. However, this slow rate, it is feared, will cause votes to go unaccounted for.

Empty envelopes of opened vote-by-mail ballots for the presidential primary are stacked on a table at King County Elections in Renton, Washington on March 10, 2020. (Photo by Jason Redmond / AFP) (Photo by JASON REDMOND/AFP via Getty Images)

To summarise this problem, it is very possible that numerous ‘mail-in’ votes will go unaccounted for due to these coexisting issues. In a bid to relieve panic and get out the vote, officials, such as former Attorney General under the Obama administration Eric Holder tweeted “It’s too late to use the mails… don’t let the court and a deliberately crippled postal service deprive you…plan your vote.”

To put numbers on just how many votes may not be accepted by ‘mail-in,’ 853,824 mail-in votes have not been returned, or accepted as of yet, meaning that many people will possibly have to queue up to vote during a deadly pandemic. These figures come from Michigan, an important ‘swing state’. Just over 600,000 votes in Wisconsin have also not yet been returned, while in Pennsylvania, just over 1.2 million votes have not been sent back.

In effect, millions of people, the majority of which are expected democratic voters, are being forced to leave their house, and to put themselves and their families at risk, to cast a vote that should have been accounted for already.

A country that has seen protests throughout 2020 in the name of freedom and equality, will once again see protests. However, these demonstrations will be in the name of exercising the very ideals that made America a political powerhouse, and an undeniable influence on the world.

If a democratic country, with a democratically appointed government, is willing to purposely suppress voters and force people to put their health at risk in order to vote, is it really a democratic country at all?

Luke Murphy – Co-Editor