Bob McKinney

In case you need a reminder, there will be a presidential election later this year. It’s only about five months away.

In one corner you have the narcissistic incumbent who was sailing along swimmingly until a little thing called a pandemic came along to be the defining moment of his first term. He told us to go into quarantine to prevent the spread of the virus, but is now acting as if we’ve overdone it, ridiculing governors he believes are being overcautious and too slow in reopening their states’ economies.

In the other corner you have the presumptive nominee from the opposing party who, until about a week ago, has been conducting his campaign from the basement of his home (that quarantine thing), trying to get as much press time as possible while the coronavirus takes center stage in the news.

This candidate has promised to name a female running mate, and there is speculation about who that will be. Do a little digging in your newspaper or on your online news source, and you might find the occasional opinion piece on that subject.

Also, this candidate and his wife surfaced on Memorial Day, clad in masks, while the incumbent candidate declined to wear one. That created a bit of a stir.

But for the most part, the 2020 election is a yawner. It would seem we only have so much capacity for news consumption, and because of COVID-19, this presidential race is not generating the buzz it would in normal times.   

Will there be party conventions to formally nominate a candidate? They are scheduled, but they are likely to look much different than they usually do. These are made-for-TV events, so it’s going to be strange if they are conducted in a virtual, or even partially virtual, format.

It’s hard to imagine either candidate accepting his nomination via Zoom.

What seems to be generating the most discussion right now is how we will vote, especially if there is a spike in COVID cases in the fall when the weather turns cooler, as some scientists predict.

Are voters, especially those most vulnerable during the pandemic, going to be fearful of going to the polls and standing in long lines with scores of others to cast their ballots, and will that keep people from voting at all?

David Plazas, Opinion and Engagement Director for USA TODAY NETWORK – Tennessee, recently wrote a piece about absentee voting in Tennessee, urging Tennesseans who qualify to vote in this fashion.

And yes, in Tennessee you must state a reason for absentee voting. Apparently, you can’t simply do it because it’s your preference, and fear of exposure to COVID-19 is not a qualifying reason.

Plazas is part of a growing faction who believe we should be able to vote in person if we wish, but should have the choice to vote by mail with no qualifying reason for doing so.

Opponents reference voter fraud and distrust of the U.S. Postal Service.

In a follow-up piece, Plazas cited information that should assuage those fears, including other states’ procedures that allow for drop-off locations for voters who would rather not mail their ballots. (Tennessee currently requires the mailing of absentee ballots to county election commissions).

He also makes the argument that widespread voter fraud has not been proven, with only ten cases of such in Tennessee over the past 15 years.

With such a short time to go before the election, I suppose creating the infrastructure for mass mail-in voting would be a monumental task.

But other states are finding ways to do it, and in times such as this, it is worthy of serious consideration.  Voting is too important to risk alienating folks who wish to cast a ballot but are fearful of doing so.

Yes, time is short, but Election Day is still five months away -- not next week. If there is any way we can expand absentee voting options, this is the time to do it.

Bob McKinney is a longtime Brentwood resident, happy husband and proud father, father-in-law and grandfather. Email him at [email protected].

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