How COVID-19 Is Affecting the Presidential Election
There will be more mail-in ballots for the upcoming presidential election than ever before. That’s pretty much a certainty.
What is uncertain is how this might impact the results. Will this increase the likelihood of fraud? Will a large number of ballots arrive too late to be counted?
Will some ballots be rejected due to signature mismatches? Will post offices be able to deliver mail-in ballots to election officials in time to be counted?
If the answer is “yes” to any of these questions, the results of this historic election might be contested for a long time.
Mail-in Ballot Requests Surging
The trend of mail-in ballots was growing even before COVID-19 hit U.S. shores. Nearly 30 percent of all ballots cast in recent elections were mail-ins.
The pandemic has increased this percentage significantly. As was seen during this year’s presidential primaries.
The Brookings Institute tells us this. The November presidential election could feature more mail-in ballots than those cast at polling places. It would mark the first time that’s ever occurred in America.
Some people are worried about entering a potentially crowded place to vote. Especially with warnings from health officials about a “second wave” of the coronavirus. Many say they will vote by mail. But will they?
Rejected Ballots a Concern
Presidential voting in Florida has been very close the past few elections. Let’s take a look at what’s going on there. The Sunshine State could provide a microcosm of what will happen nationally.
So far, Florida voters have requested about 4.6 million mail-in ballots. Election officials predict a 36 percent increase in mail-in ballots over 2016.
Dan Smith is a political science professor at the University of Florida. His analysis revealed this. More than 35,000 mail-in ballots from the state’s primary elections did not count in the final tally.
Two-thirds of those rejections came because the ballots were received too late. Others were due to signature mismatches. And other issues.
Results Could Be Delayed
On the one hand, that’s only 1.5 percent of all primary votes cast. However, the last two presidential contests in Florida were decided by 1.2 percentage points or less. In other words, rejected ballots could make a difference.
Smith said, “This could be a huge problem in November. We could exceed 100,000 vote-by-mail ballots that don’t count.”
President Donald Trump has voiced his concerns about the potential for fraud. Due to mail-in voting growing so dramatically.
Election officials have countered by saying there is nothing to worry about. Either way, it’s possible Americans will not learn who won the election for days. Or maybe weeks or months if it’s contested.
Manatee County Supervisor of Elections Mike Bennett and others recommend this. People voting by mail should mail their ballots at least 10 days prior to the November 3 election.
Will Vaccine Be Rushed to Market?
Here’s another connection between COVID-19 and the election.
Critics of Trump say he will do everything in his power to help rush a vaccine to market prior to the election.
The idea is that those waiting for this vaccine will credit Trump for its availability. And may be persuaded to vote for him if they were previously undecided.
The White House denies this accusation. It claims the urgency to deliver an effective vaccine is for one reason. To avoid as many future illnesses and deaths as possible.
State Election Laws Vary
Are you planning to vote by mail in the upcoming presidential election? If so, it’s important to know your state’s laws. There are rules and deadlines for ballot requests. And for mailing completed ballots.
In Missouri, for example, voters must state a reason for requesting an absentee ballot. Such as planning to be out of town on election day. Or being at risk of contracting or spreading COVID-19.
But in next-door-neighbor Illinois, no one needs a reason for voting by mail. Early voting in the Land of Lincoln begins 40 days prior to the election.
Missouri and Illinois are receiving unprecedented numbers of requests for mail-in ballots. Like many other states.
USPS Could Factor In
Earlier I mentioned the U.S. Postal Service. And its role in delivering mail-in ballots to election officials on time.
Part of the reasoning for the concern is this. Many postal workers have contracted the coronavirus. Some 3,100 postal workers nationally tested positive for COVID-19 in June. That number rose to 9,600 by September.
More than 50,000 postal employees have taken time off during the pandemic. Due to sickness or quarantining while taking care of family members.
Mack Julion is the Chicago president of the National Association of Letter Carriers. He says, “Our facilities are not the most social distance friendly. If it was a party in there, Governor (J.B.) Pritzker or Mayor (Lori) Lightfoot would shut it down.”
It Should Be Interesting
The 2020 presidential election was expected to be very contentious. Even before COVID-19 came around.
The virus has played a big role in how people will vote. And there will certainly be accusations of fraud on both sides after ballots are counted.
If you’re planning to vote by mail, get your ballot mailed early. If you’re planning to go to a polling place on election day, take safety precautions.
It’s going to be a wild ride.