National: America is woefully unprepared for mail-in voting. The result will be messy and divisive. | Michael Fraiman/Macleans
Allen Straith has never voted by mail before. But when the 32-year-old customer service agent learned his wife was pregnant with their third child and realized COVID-19 would mean unsanitary voting booths and massive queues, Straith decided it would be better to play it safe, avoid the crowds and register for an absentee ballot. It wasn’t easy. He searched online for the application, but couldn’t find it. He shrugged it off for a few weeks, until he noticed a Facebook post by the chair of a neighbouring county’s Democratic group. The post warned that the deadline to register for an absentee ballot in Tennessee’s congressional election was fast approaching. Straith downloaded the application, assuming it was the same for November’s general election. It wasn’t—different application, different deadline. Now, even with the right paperwork, Straith is still worried. Not about fraud, or whether his ballot will arrive on time, or even whether his vote will count—Jefferson County, where he lives, is so deep-red, they haven’t elected a Democrat since the Civil War era. Instead, Straith believes this year’s election will further divide the nation.