As the general election nears, the COVID-19 pandemic rages on. As always, we encourage all eligible voters to cast a ballot for their candidates.

This year, though, the process is as controversial as the candidates.

With the pandemic ongoing, many are afraid to venture out on a day that’s sure to be crowded with people.

That’s why mail-in voting has become a hot topic.

Many use the terms “mail-in voting” and “absentee voting” interchangably while many declare they are not the same. The fact is each state offers different methods and uses different terminology for different ways of voting. Mail-in voting versus absentee voting is, in fact, a complicated topic.

At elect.ky.gov, there appears to be no real distinction between mail-in voting and absentee voting in Kentucky.

The website says:

“During the 2020 Primary Election, any registered voter may request to receive an absentee ballot in the mail by visiting http://govoteky.com/ and clicking ‘Absentee Ballot Request.’”

Ballots may also be cast using the following methods:

• Military, their dependents, or an overseas citizen

• Walk in to clerk’s office by appointment.

In more general terms, an absentee ballot — available since the Civil War — is meant to allow those who can not be present at a polling place the opportunity to vote. A mail-in ballot, a much broader term, is a form of absentee voting aiming to include more people in the voting process.

The fuss over absentee ballots and mail-in ballots is a waste of time and energy. The difference between the two depends on how your state’s voting process is set up. Ultimately, both processes allow citizens to vote when they otherwise might not have the opportunity.

Some argue mail-in ballots could be tampered with. It seems more likely computerized voting could be tampered with more easily than mail-in ballots. But, in fact, the United States has surprisingly honest elections.

Studies done by such organizations as Stanford University have found voting by mail does not favor voter share or turnout of either major political party. A study by the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank, found voting fraud is extremely rare in this country, with only 1,100 convictions out of 250 million mail-in votes cast in the last 20 years.

Those who wish to strengthen democracy have nothing to fear from mail-in ballots, regardless of how the process is labeled. It's safe, it's fair and it aims to give as many qualified citizens as possible the opportunity to have their voices heard.

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