How Coronavirus will Affect the 2020 Election
In a short time, the Coronavirus has completely changed the way the United States operates. Many businesses are shut down, and residents are encouraged to stay indoors and avoid unnecessary contact. This presents conflicts for the 2020 election, which relies heavily on voters crowding together in polling stations to cast their vote. To make matters more complicated, there are strict laws in place making it impossible to delay the election. Both election professionals and voting experts agree the Coronavirus will have a huge impact on the 2020 elections.
Voting by Mail
One of the proposed solutions to voting in the Coronavirus is switching to mail-in votes. In 2016, over 136 million Americans voted through the mail, but this only accounted for 40 percent of the voters. Voting by mail avoids the risk of gathering in large crowds, but it comes with several downsides. One of the issues is getting the ballots out in time.
The Wisconsin primary was the first election to take place during the Coronavirus. As a result, there was a significant increase in the number of voters registering to vote by mail. Many voters complained they did not receive a ballot in time. Other voters refused to vote by mail because they were afraid their votes would be lost. It also took significantly longer to count the votes.
Voting by mail also increases the risk of voter fraud. Voter fraud is always a risk during an election, but historically speaking, it rarely happens. If everyone is voting by mail, the chance of voter fraud increases because there are limited security options.
Polling Staff and Locations
Another one of the issues with voting in the Coronavirus is finding staff to work the poles. In many states, older citizens volunteer to work the polls. Because the Coronavirus targets the elderly, there are fewer volunteers willing to help during the election, as shown by the Wisconsin primary. This means states are unable to maintain polling stations, limiting where voters can go. With fewer voting stations, voters are funneled to limited locations. This not only leads to longer wait times, but it means voters are gathering in one primary area, which goes against social distancing guidelines.
Changing the Rules
Another issue with voting by mail has to do with the existing rules. Many states have laws in place stating voting by mail is only available for absentee or early ballots. In order to register for one of these ballots, you must provide a reason why you cannot vote in person, such as being out of the state or sick during the election. There are also other small differences in rules, such as charging for return postage or requiring the votes to be sent before the election.
While some of these issues may seem small, it makes registering to vote much harder. The voting system operates on a strict set of laws, and it is not easy to change. Trying to vote in these circumstances may lead to legal battles, as shown by the Wisconsin primaries. As of writing, there are legal battles taking place over future primaries. In Texas, Democrats filed a suit over restrictive mail-in voting laws. In Georgia, voting rights groups are upset that voters are required to pay for postage, arguing it is a poll tax. There is also the issue of certain states allowing ballot harvesting, which refers to an individual collecting absentee ballots for a large number of people.
As of writing, politicians are working to roll out new voting roles in time of the election, but it is difficult to predict what the voting landscape will look like in November. Based on what happened in Wisconsin, it seems unlikely in-person voting will be removed entirely, but there is bound to be an increase in mail-in votes.