Opinion | With Six Weeks to the Election, Six Ways to Protect It

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The 2020 election is underway. Not simply the marketing campaign — the precise voting has already begun. States are recruiting and coaching ballot staff, figuring out the ultimate record of polling locations and early voting places and mailing out ballots. The pandemic presents an enormous problem, however we will nonetheless guarantee a secure and accessible vote this November. Listed here are six methods to make that occur.

1. Each voter should make a plan to vote. Now.

Voters ought to begin by checking their registrations by going to canivote.org. They need to discover out whether they can vote early, but in-person — that choice will ease the burden of counting ballots on Election Day, since most states don’t permit for the early counting of absentee ballots. In the event that they plan to go to the polls on Election Day, they need to attempt to go in the course of the day, when strains are much less doubtless.

In the event that they plan to vote by mail and dwell in a state that isn’t mailing ballots to each voter, they need to apply for absentee ballots as quickly as potential. Then they have to resolve learn how to return that poll — by mail, in a drop field, at a county workplace, or at a polling place — and track their ballots if their state gives an internet site to take action.

In most years, absentee voters wait till the final minute to return their ballots, leading to a backlog as Election Day approaches. As a result of 2020 might even see thrice extra mail ballots solid than in any earlier election, this backlog threatens to change into gridlock. To keep away from that, we have to “flatten the absentee ballot curve,” as our colleague Richard Hasen says. Voters ought to return their ballots as quickly as they will. It will assist be sure that a rush of ballots doesn’t hit election workplaces on the final minute — and even worse, too late to be counted.

2. Work the polls.

In surveys of battleground states by our group, healthyelections.org, effectively over half of respondents point out they may vote in individual this yr. We must always take away any pandemic-related obstacles from their path.

Native election officers want ballot staff, as a result of their traditional corps of senior residents are much less more likely to serve, given their heightened Covid-19 danger. The job requires lengthy hours, however this yr, to sweeten the deal, many native jurisdictions are providing hazard pay. Ballot staff want coaching, so the time to enroll is now. Anybody ought to contact their state election workplace for data or go to the web sites of the Nationwide Affiliation of Secretaries of State, the U.S. Election Assistance Commission, and Power the Polls. Ohio has developed a useful dashboard describing the ballot employee shortages in every county — one thing each state ought to present so exterior teams can focus their recruitment efforts.

3. Maintain watch over the publish workplace, however rebuild confidence within the mail.

Voters’ confidence within the postal system should be restored. The long-term monetary woes of the U.S. Postal Service, coupled with selections this yr to chop additional time for postal staff, take away sure tools and remove further journeys to ship the mail have magnified issues that the Postal Service was less than the duty within the election. The Postal Service has warned that it cannot meet certain state mail ballot deadlines, that means last-minute voters danger not having their votes counted.

A federal court docket in Washington State has now ordered the Postal Service to undo a few of its strikes and enjoined them from making extra. The postmaster basic, Louis DeJoy, additionally backtracked from these modifications in his congressional testimony. Nonetheless, the harm to public confidence might have already got occurred; 43 p.c of doubtless voters in a current Citizen Knowledge poll will not be assured that the publish workplace will correctly ship mail ballots.

Voters have to know that mail-in ballots are a small fraction of all mail, and that the postal system stays a safe methodology for returning ballots. To rebuild confidence, states want to alter their legal guidelines now to permit native election officers to start validating mail-in ballots as quickly as they’re obtained. Florida, for instance, begins to course of absentee ballots over three weeks earlier than Election Day. And the Michigan and Pennsylvania legislatures are contemplating proposals to take action. Counting can nonetheless wait till Election Day.

4. Voters want different methods to return their mail ballots.

Given the stress on the Postal Service, states and localities should present different methods for the return of absentee ballots. In vote-by-mail states comparable to Washington, roughly half of voters return their “mail” poll by way of some methodology aside from the Postal Service — often hand-delivering them to native election workplaces or depositing them in poll drop packing containers.

It might already be too late for jurisdictions to accumulate extra drop packing containers. The Election Assistance Commission suggests these drop packing containers (which price $6,000 a chunk) require at the least 4 months to buy, website and place. However most states permit voters to hand-deliver their mail poll to their county election workplace. Some permit dropoff at Election Day polling locations or early voting websites. These choices needs to be extensively publicized by states and counties. Fb’s voting information center and Google’s election hub will publicize the places the place voters can drop off their absentee ballots.

5. If a gaggle is making an attempt to assist, coordinate with the election officers who run the present.

Some varieties of “help” supplied to voters are counterproductive. Now we have seen reviews of partially filled out applications for absentee ballots being despatched to voters, sometimes with the wrong information, or of purposes being despatched out with explicitly partisan messages. The Postal Service didn’t assist with its recent mailer to voters giving recommendation about voting, despatched out with out consulting election officers. These techniques needlessly add to the workloads of native election officers, who should discipline telephone calls from individuals asking, for instance, why their lifeless husband or pet obtained an absentee poll utility. In addition they might scale back voters’ confidence that the election is being administered rigorously and pretty.

6. A large public training effort ought to that guarantee voters know learn how to solid their ballots.

Within the research on election administration at healthyelections.org, we discover disturbing traits from the first elections. Tons of of 1000’s of voters had their votes disqualified due to signature mismatches, lacking signatures, and, specifically, late supply. First-time voters, who make up a disproportionate fraction of the presidential voters, had been more likely in some states to have their votes go uncounted.

To shrink the anticipated variety of disputed ballots, and keep off disinformation, the nation must embark on an unprecedented public training marketing campaign. Election officers are working arduous to get the phrase out about learn how to efficiently full a poll. However the scope of the duty, quick deadlines, and tight budgets imply that election directors can’t do that alone. Fb’s announcement that it’ll present state-specific “how to vote by mail” movies will present a lot wanted data, as does Stephen Colbert’s new sequence of how-to-vote YouTube movies at www.betterknowaballot.com. We’d like the campaigns, the leaders with large followings and civil society to level voters to the right data on all of the alternative ways to vote this November and why every mode is secure and safe.

Nathaniel Persily, a legislation professor at Stanford, and Charles Stewart II, a political science professor at M.I.T, run the Stanford-MIT Wholesome Elections Undertaking, which helps be sure that the 2020 election can proceed with integrity, security and equal entry.

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