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Tennessee should open mail-in voting

A recent article by Robert Houk related a high number of Washington County voters to be seeking the mail-in ballot option for the upcoming election. A court ruling, though still being contested by the state, has made all registered Tennessee voters eligible for absentee voting during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Tennessee is not among the great majority of U.S. states with mail-in voting options for all voters, but it has allowed this opportunity — before the pandemic — for persons with certain “excuses,” being of senior age (60+), for example, or for persons with disabilities.

However, if the excuse is not temporary but a condition for which one might seek the convenience of mail voting permanently, as a retiree of advanced age might do, our state sets an additional requirement. The voter must submit to the Election Office a statement from his licensed physician certifying a medical reason for being unable to vote in person. This makes him a “permanent absentee” voter who will receive the ballot request form automatically at election time.

As more and more states are moving to mail-in ballots for safety during a pandemic and other reasons, Tennessee is among only 16 states which still require a categorical excuse for not voting in person. And, as indicated on the website of the National Conference of State Legislators, in only a few of these “a note from a physician” or other certification is required.

Despite initial cost and logistics problems, Tennessee should consider the many positives in allowing absentee voting much more broadly. High turnout and enthusiasm among the voters are among these, as are financial savings following the initial costs involved. And it would obviate additional overhead costs to physicians in filling out voter-disability certification forms and potential delays and difficulties for their patients to obtain these.

FRANCES LAMBERTS

Jonesborough

Masks are common sense

With his June 25 newsletter, Phil Roe finally demonstrated the independent thinking Democrats hoped for when they helped him defeat David Davis. As to another forced shutdown, he says “Wearing a face mask should not be political. These forced shutdowns limit our freedom and economic security far more than the inconvenience of wearing a mask, so I hope everyone will follow this commonsense advice. Mask usage makes it far less likely we’ll need to have another shutdown …” Say it loudly, Dr. Roe, to amplify locally the national voices of the American Medical, Hospital, and Nurses Associations.

In Ballad Health’s June 22 update on regional COVID-19 conditions, Chairman and CEO (Alan) Levine said, “…wear your mask any time you’re in public, even if it’s not technically required. Forgoing a mask doesn’t make you brave or subversive — it makes you reckless and a risk to everyone’s health.” Maybe some ignorance and arrogance are involved as well. Our medical professionals must be exasperated and on edge as neighboring states reach less manageable COVID-19 levels and regional trends worsen.

What seems “commonsense” is relative to experience, but that can be dangerous. If we expect others to take care of our needs, let’s, in turn, accept mutual responsibility to do our utmost to limit their stress and risk. We can’t unless we first agree about COVID-19 “commonsense.” That’s an uphill task when even some of our local pharmacies, who see a preponderance of people with serious health vulnerabilities, and other health services, don’t follow CDC mask recommendations because they’re not “required.” Not knowing, perhaps, that the CDC has been stripped of such authority.

If the Trump administration and state government shirk responsibility and the prevailing unofficially governing logic is “Freedom” and “Trump all the way,” and other such nonsense, then, sadly, we need a local mandate.

JENNIE YOUNG

Elizabethton