2020 Election Update
The first of three presidential debates will happen at the end of September in Indiana with two more scheduled for October. Ultimately, determining the winner of the November 3rd general election comes down to the electoral college. The sheer number of votes each candidate receives, the popular vote, will not determine the winner. Each state is worth a certain number of electors or officials who vote on behalf of the states for president, which are proportionate to its representation in Congress. Whoever wins the majority of the 538 votes available, becomes president.
When there is not a global pandemic, voting occurs at an in-person, official polling site on Election Day, November 3rd, where voters fill out their ballot. Most states offer early voting, allowing it to take place before Election Day. Each state handles its own vote counting, and a winner is most often determined that night. Mail-in absentee voting is available for those who are unable to participate at polling sites due to illness, disability, or attending an out-of-state school.
Health concerns over Covid-19 have increased the demand for states to expand the availability of mail-in voting. Though every state has absentee voting, rules on who can participate vary; 17 states require that voters provide a valid reason why they are unable to vote in person. In two-thirds of the country, any registered voter may vote absentee without providing an excuse. In the other third, an excuse is required. However, for the 2020 election, states’ rules may change due to the public-health crisis.
All-mail voting, which is available in a handful of states, automatically mails a ballot to every eligible voter, no request needed. Polling sites may still be available for those who would prefer to vote in person. Five states now, Colorado, Hawaii, Oregon, Utah, and Washington, offer all-mail elections. Other states, like Arizona and California, allow voters to add themselves to a permanent list of mail-in voters.
Concerns about how the country will hold elections during the pandemic makes voting by mail appear to be a viable option, however, not everyone agrees. While experts say that mail-in voting can be conducted safely, President Donald J. Trump has claimed that voting by mail gives Democrats an advantage and provides a massive opportunity for voter fraud. The New York Times reported the President saying that if the United States used all-mail voting, “you’d never have a Republican elected in this country again.” Leading experts who have studied voting by mail refuted President Trump’s claim, stating that there is no evidence to support the claim that all-mail elections favor Democrats and that studies have shown all forms of voter fraud in the United States are extremely rare.
As the future of voting is still unclear, it is up to the states to determine what that future will look like.