2020 will be defined by the COVID-19 pandemic. The virus has affected virtually every facet of life - school, work, recreation, travel, even with whom and how we socialize. The pandemic has even affected the election. And the outcome of the 2020 election will affect our continued response to this crisis, as well as future crises.

COVID-19 began spreading rapidly across the country in the spring of 2020, at the same time that many states were holding their primary elections. There were a variety of responses. Some states made no changes, forcing voters and poll-workers to risk illness to vote. Others closed polling places, forcing long lines. Other states, including West Virginia, allowed voters to utilize mail-in absentee voting. 

With the pandemic showing no sign of abating, it's likely emergency accommodations will need to be in place in November. The most effective way to protect public safety while encouraging voter participation would be to allow all voters to use mail-in absentee ballots.

Unfortunately, some elected officials, including the President, are trying to undermine this common-sense and effective solution. They claim that mail-in ballots allow for rampant fraud. In reality, voter fraud is exceedingly rare, even in states that allow for voting by mail normally. It will be important that election officials don't give in to these baseless claims and the sycophants who parrot them. Even in a pandemic, it is important that we make voting safe and accessible for everyone.

In fact, voting is even more important during the pandemic. Across the nation, we have seen a variety of responses to the pandemic. States have varied in if and when they have declared emergencies, what emergency measures they have put in place, and how much the legislative and judicial branches have been involved. They have tried to balance personal freedoms, economic impacts, public health, and public welfare. 

These have been difficult decisions, and there have been significant disagreements about what steps have been appropriate. The coming election will be a chance for voters to show their approval or disapproval of how their elected officials have handled this crisis. The election will affect how our representatives continue to manage the pandemic. And it will guide how officials approach future emergencies.