By Sophie Lovering
Sophie Lovering is a junior in the College of Arts and Sciences at the University of Pennsylvania majoring in Philosophy, Politics, and Economics (PPE) and minoring in American Sign Language and Deaf Studies.
In the midst of a contentious election and deadly pandemic, many Americans are facing, for the first time in their lives, the possibility that their vote might not count. As of October 25, over 59 million Americans have voted early . With debates over the validity of mail-in voting and how to vote, confusion remains over what voters must do to ensure that their votes count .
According to the National Public Radio, the Supreme Court ordered in early October that voters in South Carolina must secure a witness signature on their absentee ballots . However, this mandate does not apply to the voters of South Carolina who already submitted their ballots, as they had previously been informed by a lower court that this signature was not a requirement . This issue has many nuanced connections to the current atmosphere of the United States. Concerning politics, Democrats argued that a witness signature is an undue burden on voters, while Republicans argued that it would discourage voter fraud . While this is a common trend, with conservative politicians preferring more voting requirements, it is more of a threat during the pandemic. With COVID-19, many people are minimizing their social spheres and any unnecessary interactions - a required witness signature may force some voters who have been particularly diligent about social distancing to choose between a valid ballot and their own personal health.
The fight over witness signatures in South Carolina was far from the only battle over voting this election cycle. According to the Pew Research Center, Trump and Biden supporters have inverse preferences for voting in the fall; while Trump supporters prefer to vote in person on Election Day, Biden supporters are far more likely to vote by mail . This brings up another issue, with the U.S. Postal Service recording persistent delivery delays . With more people voting by mail in the pandemic, this delayed service raises the possibility of ballots being rejected because they arrive too late, and especially raises this possibility for Biden supporters who prefer to use their mail-in option .
Voters face many other obstacles when it comes to submitting their ballots as well. Some states require only a postmark by November 3, while other states must receive ballots by Election Day . Popular discourse publicized by political media demonstrates that there exist partisan differences over the security of mail-in voting, with Republicans believing that mail-in voting may lead to voter fraud . These issues are unique to this specific election, but previous barriers to voting still apply. Felon disenfranchisement prevents thousands of people from exercising their right to vote. Illiteracy rates make it extremely difficult for people to access information about their polling places. Voter ID requirements continue to suppress the votes of people of color and younger voters.
While this election is full of uncertainty, I encourage you to vote. Complete your mail-in ballot and deliver it yourself. Show up on Election Day, and prepare for a long day of waiting in lines. But, please, make your voice count .
 U.S. Elections Project. “2020 General Election Early Vote Statistics.” October 25, 2020. https://electproject.github.io/Early-Vote-2020G/index.html.
 Fessler, Pam. “Key Legal Fights Over Voting Remain Unresolved As Election Day Draws Close.” National Public Radio. October 8, 2020. https://www.npr.org/2020/10/08/921225458/
 Gramlich, John. “Americans’ Expectations About Voting in 2020 Presidential Election are Colored by Partisan Differences.” Pew Research Center. September 8, 2020. https://www.pew
 Izaguirre, Anthony. “Battleground Postal Delays Persist With Mail Voting Underway.” Associated Press. October 23, 2020.https://apnews.com/article/election-2020-
 “How, Where, and When to Vote.” USA.gov. October 23, 2020. https://www.usa.gov/
The opinions and views expressed in this publication are the opinions of the designated authors and do not reflect the opinions or views of the Penn Undergraduate Law Journal, our staff, or our clients.