Emily Kawahara

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The 2020 presidential election will be held during the COVID-19 public health crisis. In response to the COVID-19 situation, there is an immediate need to universalize mail-voting. However, President Donald Trump consistently downplays COVID-19 and asserts that mail- voting causes voter fraud and favors the Democratic Party. This Article examines modifications made in prior elections held during or in the wake of crises. Though these modifications are not applicable for the COVID-19 pandemic, they provide two important distinctions: crisis-specific measures should prioritize protecting public health and, if there is an opportunity to preserve the right to vote through election modification, that modification should be implemented. The Article highlights the origins and development through election law of absentee voting. Once this foundation is established, it differentiates between perceived and true threats during the 2020 election. Perceived threats are based on unfounded claims that mail-voting leads to greater election fraud or benefits one political party over the other. True threats are COVID-19 and the impact of universal mail-voting on historically disenfranchised voters. However, the COVID-19 situation provides opportunity to implement tangible solutions offered by advocates to expeditiously improve voting accessibility to minority voters. The Article highlights recent challenges to the established absentee voter laws that attempt to fit the pandemic into excuse categories but have failed. It then argues that rather than fitting into laws that dictate a normal election year, mail-voting should be implemented as a necessary and contemporary countermeasure for protecting public health. This argument is supported by the logic applied in Jacobson v. Massachusetts. The Article concludes that mail-voting during the COVID-19 pandemic is not only a case-specific solution, it is also a catalyst for necessary improvements to voting accessibility.