The fiasco surrounding Wisconsin’s April 7 primary election is still fresh: In the middle of a viral pandemic, crowded, in-person voting took place despite the governor’s stay-at-home order, while tens of thousands of voters did not receive absentee ballots in time to cast eligible votes by mail. Two election eve judicial decisions added to the confusion.
Unfortunately, the November elections are at risk of looking similar. With coronavirus likely to remain a threat for months, some form of voting by mail, including in states historically unfamiliar with high rates of absentee voting, will be a public health necessity. But one issue with mail-in ballots, whether a state uses them just for absentee voters or for the entire election, is that they need to be postmarked or delivered to a polling station no later than Election Day. If local election offices can’t handle the increased demand for absentee ballots and voters don’t receive their ballots in time to cast them by Election Day, those voters are disenfranchised. And that, in turn, could lead to heated, possibly prolonged disputes about election outcomes.
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