Is This the Future of U.S. Elections?
Is This the Future of U.S. Elections?
The pandemic has added momentum—and urgency—to efforts to expand voting by mail
Ryan Teague Beckwith

The coronavirus outbreak that has forced Americans to retreat to their homes and brought the economy to a standstill also threatens to upend the presidential election. Multiple states have rescheduled their spring primaries as the number of confirmed cases of Covid-19 keeps climbing. Some polling places in states that held primaries on March 17 were hastily closed; at others, workers scrambled to disinfect voting machines and keep people 6 feet apart in line. Voters were encouraged by officials to avoid the health risks of in-person voting entirely—by casting their ballots by mail.

The pandemic has prompted new attempts to expand mail-in voting, a trend that has been slowly building over the last two decades. A bill introduced on March 18 by Oregon Senator Ron Wyden—the first U.S. senator elected in a statewide mail-in election—and Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar would require states to allow mail-in and early voting during a pandemic or natural disaster and would provide funding for the cost of ballots and postage, among other things. The stimulus bill passed on March 25 includes $400 million for states to allow vote by mail, expand early voting and online registration, and hire more workers, but it doesn’t include a mandate.

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March 30 - April 06, 2020