How Can Libraries Support the 2020 Election?

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A New York Times op-ed from sociologist Eric Klinenberg explores libraries how could help ensure a fair and just U.S. election by offering ballot collection boxes for patrons who wish to vote early.

Amid the ongoing pandemic, millions of Americans are planning to vote by mail rather than risk COVID-19 exposure at crowded polling places on Election Day. Still, many are their mail-in ballots may not arrive in time to be counted.

Klinenberg, a professor at New York University and author of Palaces for the People: How Social Infrastructure Can Help Fight Inequality, Polarization, and the Decline of Civic Life, argues that libraries can play an important role.

“Libraries already serve as polling places on Election Day throughout the country and, crucially, they provide secure, monitored ballot boxes where absentee voters can drop off their ballots before Nov. 3 and know that it will count,” he explains in the New York Times. “Secure boxes for absentee ballots are already available at some libraries in states like California, Colorado, Florida, Illinois, Utah, and Washington. Other states should follow suit.”

Ballot boxes allow voters to personally drop off their ballot in a secure setting all the way up until the polls close on Election Day. They give voters peace of mind, knowing that their ballot won’t encounter any delays or interference on the way to be counted.

America’s thousands of public libraries reach all types of communities and are among our nation’s most-trusted institutions. With that in mind, Klinenberg sees them as the perfect setting for early voting: “Making ballot boxes widely available at libraries and at accessible outdoor places is a safe and inexpensive way for government at all levels to promote our core civic duty.”

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