Visions of the Republic | Voting with the Virus: Ensuring Democracy via Bypassing the Excuse Requirements in Absentee Voting

By Russell Spivak

One of the many difficulties posed by measures undertaken to curb the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic may be an inability to vote. Should this pandemic bleed into the fall, gathering at polling places, for example, would contravene guidelines prohibiting large gatherings particularly in crammed quarters. As such, jurisdictions must act immediately to broaden the use of absentee voting. Unfortunately, seventeen states, either via statute or constitutional provision, presently require an “excuse” to vote absentee. This could theoretically pose a problem insofar as fear of contracting the disease or spreading it to others may or may not qualify. This Article discusses how states could address this requirement, namely via legislative or constitutional alterations, rule promulgation, or simply arguing said fears fall under an acceptable excuse. Each of these options is discussed, including costs and benefits, in the hopes of ensuring each American need not choose between the franchise and her wellbeing come November.