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Credit: Kelsey Warren

The spring semester ended only two weeks ago, and since closing that unique chapter, I’ve spent a lot of time catching up on my to-do list. Near the top was to submit my Pennsylvania mail-in ballot application. A few nights ago, I answered some personal questions, filled in the blanks, and moments later, my application was finished. The following morning I received an email notification that the application had been approved. With this approval, I no longer had to worry about heading to the polls and putting myself and my loved ones at unnecessary risk of contracting COVID-19

As much as I enjoy receiving a congratulatory sticker and chatting with the poll workers, it is clear that it’s not possible this year. The process to apply to vote in the election through the mail-in ballot system is quick and efficient for voters in Pennsylvania. For this reason, it is imperative that all Penn students submit their ballot applications before the deadline at 5:00 p.m. on May 26. Then, all registered voters will be able to participate in the upcoming primary election. In light of the looming deadline, here are three reasons to submit your ballot application right now: 

1. Necessary Accessibility as a Result of COVID-19: 

As much as I’m personally exhausted discussing COVID-19, the truth is, the presence of the virus has and will continue to strongly shape the upcoming 2020 election. Per the available data, we are approaching 100,000 COVID-19 deaths in the United States. The enormity of this number is unsettling and the freshness of the pain is immeasurable. My friends have lost family members. I’ve lost family members. While there is no clear-cut end to COVID-19’s wrath, voting remains essential.

It’s vital that we uphold our devotion to democracy during these unprecedented times. Under Act 77 of 2019, Pennsylvania law permits all registered voters to apply for a mail-in ballot. You do not need to provide a reason or an excuse to apply for a mail-in ballot.

How can we protect our health, the health of the people we care about, and the health of the people in our communities while continuing to execute our civic duty? Mail-in ballot voting. With the implementation of common-sense social distancing measures, such as voting by mail-in ballot, we can ensure that we all are employing our civic duty while staying safe. 

2. It's Good Practice for the Upcoming Election in November: 

Coronavirus will continue to be a threat through November. According to relevant data, earlier social distancing measures could have saved 36,000 lives in the United States. The lack of proactivity from the leaders of this nation has cost us enough lives. Let’s be vigorous with our approach to voting while also being safe and limiting in-person contact. 

The list of important things that need our attention can begin with the continually devastating impact of climate change and end with the injustice of educational inequality, with hundreds of other important issues in between. Voting by mail-in ballot in the June 2 primary will allow us to be more prepared to vote remotely for the general election on November 3. 

3. Pennsylvania, the Battle Ground State: 

Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, and Michigan all have one important thing in common–as swing states, they were vital in electing President Donald Trump to the White House. With Pennsylvania being a battleground state again this upcoming election, all registered voters participating in a practical voting process is imperative. Without ballot-voting, the possibility of low voter turnout is heightened. 

American voters should not have to decide between increasing their chance to contract COVID-19 and voting safely. Through all of the uncertainty, we need a reliable voting process. Voters need to be aware that we can cast our ballots safely. Submitting our mail-in ballot applications will ensure our civic responsibilities are taken care of by allowing PA voters to participate in the upcoming election comfortably. With President Donald Trump making headlines with his threats to withhold federal funding from particular states that implement ballot voting for the 2020 election, right now is the best time to ensure your mail-in ballot application is taken care of.

JESSICA GOODING is a rising College senior from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania studying History and English. Her email address is jgooding@sas.upenn.edu.

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