FiveThirtyEight: As with most aspects of our daily lives, the coronavirus pandemic has disrupted the administration of elections. Several states have already postponed primaries that were scheduled for this spring, and the few in-person elections that have taken place were marred by chaos. But with an election date of November 3 more or less set in stone, how can the general election be conducted safely if the pandemic is still raging in the fall?
Many officials and voters alike think the solution is to conduct the election predominantly by mail — but that’s easier said than done. Converting to a vote-by-mail system is arduous and expensive, and most states simply aren’t set up to smoothly conduct a mail election with their present resources and laws.
Currently, state laws on the use of mail voting are a patchwork quilt. Only five states regularly conduct mail elections by default: Colorado, Hawaii, Oregon, Utah and Washington. Three more, though, do allow counties to opt into mail voting, and nine more allow certain elections to be conducted by mail — although these are typically low-turnout, local elections, a far cry from the 2020 presidential race.
Another 29 states (plus Washington, D.C.) give voters the option to vote by mail — also known as no-excuse absentee voting — in federal elections, but the burden is on the voter to request her ballot. The remaining 16 states still require voters to provide a valid excuse if they want to vote by mail, although this year, some states may accept concerns around the coronavirus as an excuse. (New Hampshire has already moved to do that for the general election.) Read more.