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Chester County Press

Efforts to thwart vote-by-mail expansion aren’t just dubious—they are despicable

07/06/2020 06:35PM ● By Steven Hoffman

Efforts to thwart vote-by-mail expansion aren’t just dubious—they are despicable

Pennsylvania is seeking to expand vote-by-mail measures to ensure that residents are able to safely and securely exercise their constitutional right to vote.

This effort is being challenged in court.

Mail-in balloting has been a secure way for a limited number of people to cast a ballot in Pennsylvania for decades and, for a few other states, voting by mail is the standard operating procedure—and has been for many years. Some states already have a majority of their votes being cast by mail, and the system works well.

Politics is a dirty game. There’s no getting around that. Republicans and Democrats alike will be looking to exploit any advantage, regardless of what the voting process is. But the right to vote is precious. It should not be trifled with. Both parties should agree that every person is entitled to be able to vote. Elected officials have a responsibility to do what’s necessary and put in the safeguards that are needed to ensure that residents aren’t kept from voting because they fear going to the voting booth because of health concerns.

Vote-by-mail has proven to be safe and secure, and there should be a bipartisan effort to always ensure that every single person who is eligible to vote has the opportunity to do so.

Be wary of any person or group seeking to curtail a resident’s ability to vote in an election. The efforts to thwart vote-by-mail expansion aren’t just dubious—they are despicable.

Kudos to Cramer for a good recommendation

Local governments have been able to conduct public meetings throughout the pandemic thanks to videoconferencing technology—usually Microsoft Teams, Zoom, or Google Meet.

While this allows local governments to continue the necessary work at hand, there are obviously some shortcomings to relying on this technology rather holding in-person meetings that can be attended by members of the public.

During the online meetings, each municipality and school board has found a way to allow the public to view the meetings while they are taking place, and to offer public comments on the agenda items. 

There’s just no way that videoconferencing can replicate the in-person public meeting. The decisions that the borough councils, school boards, and the township supervisors are making now, and the discussions that they are having now, are as important as the ones that were being made before the pandemic. Public input is always critical.

For as long as these municipal meetings continue to be held via videoconference, every effort should be made to allow for public participation, whether it’s actually offering public comment or simply viewing a recorded meeting. That’s why we applaud council member Ethan Cramer for making a recommendation during a council meeting in June to have Kennett Square Borough record the meetings and then post them online so that residents can view them at a later time.

Local governments utilize technology to varying degrees. Some school boards have been posting public meetings online for years, while other townships don’t utilize technology very much at all.

Until regular public meetings can be held again, it’s worth the time and minimal expense it would take to utilize the available technology to keep the public involved in local government.