Vote-By-Mail has been around since the Civil War and now some Florida legislators want to kill it | Opportunity For All Floridians

Vote-By-Mail has been around since the Civil War and now some Florida legislators want to kill it

From the Battlefields to the Ballot Box: The Irony of Florida Legislators’ Attempt to End a Tradition of Voting by Mail that Began in the Civil War

When you think of the sacrifices made by our military, what comes to mind? Bravery in the face of danger, putting country before self, and so much more. But did you know that these brave men and women have been able to exercise their right to vote from fields of battle all the way back to the Civil War? Yes, vote-by-mail has been a vital tool for military personnel to cast their ballots while serving overseas or on bases in other states, ensuring our military can participate in our democracy while protecting it away from home.

States passed vote-by-mail laws to allow soldiers to vote in the 1864 presidential election

Head-quarters, Army of the James–Pennsylvania soldiers voting / sketched by William Waud. United States, 1864. Photograph. Retrieved from the Library of Congress

Before the Civil War, only Pennsylvania had provisions for soldiers to vote while serving (Pennsylvania’s law dated back to the War of 1812). But with a million soldiers serving in the Union Army, multiple states passed laws allowing military personnel to vote, including voting by mail. The United States has never delayed a presidential election, including at the height of the Civil War, and vote-by-mail made it possible for hundreds of thousands of soldiers to participate in democracy, while fighting to preserve what Lincoln called “the last best hope of earth.”

Voting is a Right, Not a Privilege

For many people, getting to a polling place can be a challenge. That’s especially true for military personnel who are stationed in other states or overseas, elderly folks who might have trouble getting around, and people with disabilities who face obstacles that aren’t always visible to the eye. Vote-by-mail is a lifeline for these voters, allowing them to exercise their right to vote from the comfort of their own homes. But now, some Florida legislators want to take that right away.

Why Vote-by-Mail Matters

Voting Absentee, Vietnam, 1968

The caption reads “1st Lieutenant Samuel Griffin, voting officer of 3d Battalion, 1st Marines, observes as Corporal Gary Froberg completes his voting registration. Voting officers go wherever the men are to insure all eligible servicemen are afforded the opportunity to exercise this basic American right”
From the Jonathan F. Abel Collection (COLL/3611) at the Archives Branch, Marine Corps History Division

The truth is, vote-by-mail is a secure way to vote with multiple safeguards built in. With signature verification and secure transportation of ballots, you can be sure that your vote will be counted accurately and securely. Not only that, vote-by-mail has been shown to increase voter participation! When people can vote from the comfort of their own homes, they’re more likely to cast a ballot. Isn’t more active participation in our democracy what we want? Our democracy is stronger the more eligible voters participate.

Ensuring Accessibility for All

When it comes down to it, voting is a right, not a privilege. We need to make sure that every eligible voter has a chance to cast a ballot, regardless of whether they’re a military member stationed overseas, an elderly person, or someone with a disability. That’s why vote-by-mail is so important. And that’s why we need to make sure that Florida legislators don’t take it away.

Vote-by-mail has been a valuable tool for military personnel and others who face obstacles to voting since the Civil War. It’s a secure way to vote, and it’s been shown to increase voter participation. But most importantly, it’s a lifeline for those who might not be able to get to a polling place on Election Day. We need to make sure that vote-by-mail stays alive in Florida, because every vote matters and every voice deserves to be heard.

Actions you can take to protect Democracy:

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