EDITORIAL: Be smart. Vote by mail

York Dispatch Editorial Board
FILE - In this March 17, 2020, file photo "I Voted" stickers sit on the table for voters at Trinity Lutheran Church in Evanston, Ill. A new poll from The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research finds Democrats are now much more likely than Republicans to support their state conducting elections exclusively by mail, 47% to 29%. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh, File)

Today, let's celebrate something the state Legislature got right.

In October, the Legislature passed a bill to change a few things about how Pennsylvanians cast their ballots during primary and general elections. Gov. Tom Wolf signed it into law on Oct. 31.

One of the biggest changes was making it so every voter can request and receive a mail-in ballot, eliminating the previous requirement that a voter prove they would be out of the district or working on Election Day or provide a doctor's note showing that they were sick. 

More:Mail voting, new machines feature in Pennsylvania primary

More:State officials: Don't wait to apply for June 2 primary mail-in ballot

Little did we know that this change would make such a difference so quickly. Just six months later, with the state under stay-at-home orders because of the coronavirus pandemic, the Pennsylvania primary was moved to June 2. 

That's when the new law really came into play.

County elections offices are now being swamped with requests for mail-in ballots as people look at the primary, now less than two weeks away, and decide they don't want to go to a polling place to cast a vote when they could fill out a ballot at home.

Nearly 1 million people in the state had applied for the mail-in ballots by May 4, according to Wolf. Almost 34,000 York County residents had requested mail-in ballots in York County as of Wednesday, according to The Philadelphia Inquirer, compared to just over 2,900 absentee ballots requested for the 2016 primary.

FILE - In this March 10, 2020, file photo wearing gloves, a King County Election worker collect ballots from a drop box in the Washington State primary, in Seattle. But the 2020 presidential election is creeping ever closer, and there are no signs yet of pandemic abating, nor any word on when Americans on orders to stay home can resume normal life, and so lawmakers are trying to figure how to allow for voting in a world where face-to-face contact causes anxiety at the least, and sickness and death at the most. (AP Photo/John Froschauer, File)

It just makes sense. Why stand in line at a polling place, with people who might or might not be wearing masks or observing social distancing protocols, to get to a table with poll workers where you have to sign a page that others have touched, get a paper ballot, take it to another spot to fill out and then hand to another poll worker to run through the  counting machine?

Even if you bring your own pen for signing and Sharpie for filling out the ballot and the voting areas are cleaned after each voter, there are still a lot of potential points of contact there during a pandemic that has had us all staying home for two months.

The alternative: Fill out a form online, receive a paper ballot in the mail, fill it out at home, sign it, mail it back. You never have to come face to face with another person.

Some people, most notably, of course, the president, are making a big fuss about the potential for voter fraud through mail-in ballots. 

“Mail-in ballots are very dangerous. There is tremendous fraud involved and tremendous illegality,” President Donald Trump said to reporters on Wednesday, according to The Hill. Trump threatened to withhold funding from Michigan and Nevada after those states sent absentee ballot applications to all registered voters in the states.

But this is a hill the president is fabricating, once again. Yes, mail-in ballots are the most likely to be involved in voter fraud, making up 24% of the voter fraud cases prosecuted between 2000 and 2012, according to a database from News21, an investigative reporting project. But that's 24% of 491 cases in the entire country over 12 years, when billions of votes were cast, according to factcheck.org. There is no widespread voter fraud of any kind in this country, a fact that has been proven again and again.

Another fact to throw into the mix: Trump votes in Florida by mail.

It comes down to this: You can get a mail-in ballot, cast your vote safely from home and make sure your voice is heard in the election. Or you can go to a polling place, putting yourself, poll workers and other voters at risk during a pandemic that is still not under control. 

Make the smart choice. The deadline to request a mail-in ballot is Tuesday, and you can fill out the form at www.votespa.com. Your ballot must be returned to the county election office by 8 p.m. June 2.