Friday, June 18

A Smooth Election – The New York Times

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All of which indicates that states have the ability to let people vote safely and conveniently during a pandemic. Not every problem will be avoided. In very close races, for example, the outcome may not be known on election night, especially in states (unlike Massachusetts) that count all ballots postmarked by Election Day even if they arrive later. Of course, the closest races have always been uncertain for at least a few days, because of absentee ballots.

In recent months, some states — like Arizona, Nevada and Pennsylvania have made meaningful changes to their election rules to prepare for November. But many states have still not done enough, voting-rights experts say. And some politicians, including President Trump, have signaled that they are happy for voting to be difficult, so long as it helps them win.

Those politicians are making a choice. Massachusetts — along with states that have universal vote-by-mail, like heavily Republican Utah, heavily Democratic Oregon and a few others — has shown what’s possible when public officials decide they want to protect Americans’ voting rights.

In other campaign news:

  • Joe Biden will travel to Kenosha, Wis., today to meet with the family of Jacob Blake, a Black man who was shot by a white police officer last month. Biden said yesterday that the officer should be charged with a crime.

  • President Trump suggested that people in North Carolina stress-test the security of their elections systems by voting twice. Voting twice is illegal.

  • Senior officials at the Department of Homeland Security officials intervened to block the publication of a report warning of Russian attempts to denigrate Biden before the election. The department’s acting secretary called it a “very poorly written report.”

The sociologist Eric Klinenberg published a book in 2018 called “Palaces for the People,” about the importance of shared public spaces in American life. Libraries, child care centers, churches and parks had all been crucial to the country’s historical success, he wrote, and he argued that they remained crucial to helping the country function better and overcome its deep divisions today.

In a Times Op-Ed, Klinenberg builds on that idea with a suggestion for the 2020 election: Public libraries, which have long served as polling places, should play an even larger role than they had in past elections. In the midst of a pandemic, they should provide secure ballot boxes where voters can drop off early and absentee ballots, reducing the burden on the Postal Service while allowing people to vote safely. (In Massachusetts — the subject of our item above — at least two libraries did so in this week’s primary.)

“Even in today’s fractured digital age, libraries rank among the most popular and well-visited places in our cultural landscape,” Klinenberg, a New York University professor, writes. “They are open to everyone. They are nonpartisan. They are free.”

For more: Klinenberg explained his larger idea of “social infrastructure” on the “99% Invisible” podcast.

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