Time is running out to allow millions of Americans to vote this fall without fear of contracting the novel coronavirus.
Mail voting — the voting method that best preserves social distancing — is infrequently used in many states, and those that don’t have extensive mail voting might be unable to implement systems before November. And while 33 states, including most 2020 presidential battlegrounds, already allow any voter to cast a ballot by mail who wants to, a number of those states aren’t prepared to handle the crush of mailed-in ballots that could be coming their way in November.
In interviews with POLITICO, eight election administrators and voting rights advocates said it is still too difficult for many voters to cast absentee ballots, even as two-thirds of American adults say they would be uncomfortable going to a polling place to vote, according to a new Pew Research Center survey — and as local, state and federal governments encourage or require Americans to stay home.
The consequences could shake the 2020 elections: Turnout had been expected to break modern records but instead could turn sharply downward, based on the path the coronavirus pandemic takes over the next few months. The patchwork system has thrown a wrench into every 2020 campaign, from the presidential hopefuls down to state and local candidates, as they navigate different state laws and emerging policy changes to make sure their voters can cast ballots amid the coronavirus pandemic.