Coronacast Episode 02 – Universal Vote by Mail: Ensuring Health and Securing Democracy

By: Rhea Almeida and Luisa Portugal

This podcast series includes NYU policy students that will analyze policy issues and solutions emerging in real-time around the country.

On this election-special episode, NYU Wagner students Abe and Alexis discuss the pandemic and universal ‘Vote by Mail’ – a policy that could allow all American voters to mail in their ballots in the 2020 Presidential election. Could this keep voters safe amidst the Coronavirus outbreak? We break down the pros and possible cons for you, while also providing a short news update of the week.

The Problem:

CDC guidelines regarding public gatherings are incompatible with voting at polling locations. Wisconsin’s disastrous April 7th primary shows what will happen across the country in November if nothing is done. Allowing every American to vote by mail is a simple way to avoid forcing people to choose between protecting their health and performing their civic duty.

The Obstacles:

  • Printing and sending a ballot and prepaid return envelope to every registered American, then processing those ballots, would easily cost $2 billion.
  • New procedures would need to be put in place rapidly in 45 states (UT, HI, OR, WA, and CO already have universal vote by mail), since states run their own elections.
  • President Trump claimed voting by mail is vulnerable to fraud and harmful to Republican candidates.
  • Many states actively suppress voter access, especially for voters of color. These same states were disproportionately active in purging 17 million voters from voting rolls between 2016 – 2018. There is currently little incentive for these state officials to change course.


0:00: Welcome from hosts Rhea and Luisa

0:40: News segment 

3:50: Interview with Abe and Alexis

18:16: Wrap up

Guest Speakers

Alexis Richards is first-year MPA student at NYU Wagner specializing in Advocacy and Political Action, and President of the Wagner Women’s Caucus. This summer, she will serve as a communications intern for congressional candidate Gina Ortiz Jones, working to flip Texas district 23 blue. Her past professional experience includes serving as an intern for former presidential candidate Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and working on the communications team in the Office of New York City Council Member Carlina Rivera (D-Manhattan). She volunteers her time at the Lower Eastside Girls Club, where she serves on the executive board of the Angel Alliance. She holds a B.A. in Communications and Consumer Psychology from the University of Pennsylvania. Her background is in PR, executing strategy for brands such as Target and Rebecca Minkoff.

Abe Nelson is a first-year MPA student at NYU Wagner specializing in Advocacy and Political Action, and staff writer for The Wagner Review. Most recently, he served as a research assistant on the data team at the NYU Furman Center for Real Estate & Urban Policy. This summer, he will serve as a graduate student intern with the ACLU’s National Political Advocacy Department. Prior to enrolling at Wagner, he interned on the cultural engagement and research teams at Everytown for Gun Safety and worked as a program associate in the NYC Mayor’s Office of Criminal Justice. He holds a B.A. in Political Science from Kenyon College.


Rhea Almeida is first-year MPA international student at NYU Wagner hailing from Mumbai, India. In the past, she has worked in the fields of policy, advocacy, and development for a women’s working rights group in India. Prior to that, she worked as a TV news journalist in New Delhi. Her areas of interest include workers’ rights, gender equality, grassroot level advocacy and coronavirus response policy. In addition to being contributing editor for The Wagner Review, she serves as senator for the Wagner Student Association, and events chair for the Wagner Policy Alliance. She is also the co-founder of the ‘What’s up with Coronavirus Policy’ discussion group.

Luisa Portugal is a first-year MPA student at NYU Wagner specializing in International Development Management & Policy. She earned an LLM in Constitutional Law and Theory in Brazil. Her main topics of interest are international development, climate change and the coronavirus crisis. Luisa will serve as Co-Chair of Events for the Alliance for Climate Change and Environment (ACE) in the upcoming year. She is also the co-founder of the ‘What’s up with Coronavirus Policy’ discussion group.



Music Credit: Pamgaea by Kevin MacLeod