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Home / Tips and Tricks / Voting in the 2020 election: What you need to know about postal voting, online voting, voting

Voting in the 2020 election: What you need to know about postal voting, online voting, voting

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How will postal voting work this fall?

Sarah Tew / CNET

This story is part of Val 2020, CNET̵

7;s coverage of the reason for the November vote.

This November 3, with the states still rolling from the effects of coronavirus pandemic, record numbers of Americans are expected vote by mail to avoid the lines at their local polling stations. For those who decide to vote themselves, however, states also allow it, but voters should expect confusion about the location of polling stations, long lines and social distancing.

Adding to the uncertainty is concern that the US Postal Service may not have the funding needed to handle a strong growing vote this fall. “Now they need the money to make the post office work, so it can take all those millions and millions of votes,” President Donald Trump said in an interview with Fox Business. “If we do not make an agreement, it means they do not get their money. It means we can not have universal voting by e-mail. They just can not have it.”

Most states already allow postal voting, and in 2016, almost a quarter of postal voting was done. But this year, a handful of states are taking additional steps to make it easier to use a post-in ballot to vote this fall.

The process began this spring with primary elections, when states began to adapt how people could safely cast their vote, either in person or by mail. So far, the results have been mixed.

In Georgia, for example, a shortage of voting workers, new voting procedures and a sharp increase in post-in-vote delays in primary voting. Similarly, in Pennsylvania, election officials were still counting votes one week after its June 2 primary, which saw an increase in post-in votes and an unexpected jump in voter turnout at polling stations. And in New York’s most recent primary, with more than ten times as many post-vote votes received in the last election, voters still count absentee ballots six weeks after the election, the New York Times reported.

To address major problems in November, many states are urging eligible voters to sign up now for post-election ballots along with other plans to hold safe elections. This is how the states are preparing for the uncertainty in the vote this autumn. To register to vote in your state, go to the federal government polling site to find out how to register and check your registration status.

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What is postal voting?

The idea of ​​voting by mail is simple. You will receive your vote in the mail, complete it when you are at home and then put the prepaid envelope in the mail in time for the election.

Postal voting is widespread throughout the United States. According to the Open Source Election Technology Institute – a non-profit election research company – each state offers some form of post-in ballot, ranging from absentee ballots limited to those who can not vote in person to a 100% post-in ballot system used by five states . Here’s more about differences between voting by email and absent.

At the state level, post-voting is a two-pronged effort: 22 states with Republican governors offer voting-by-post options to all voters, as well as 24 states led by Democratic governors, the Electoral Institute said. Four other states require voters to meet certain criteria for voting by mail, such as being over 65 or outside the area on election day. To check the rules for your state’s submission vote, go to the federal government’s voting website and follow the links to your state.

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More people are expected to vote by mail in November.

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Why are government and federal officials talking about postal voting now?

Holding a national election under the best conditions can be challenging. But as some state primaries have shown, voting during a pandemic can strain a state’s electoral resources and challenge citizens to vote while exercising safe social distance.

To increase the ante, an estimated 138 million people voted in the general election in November 2016. A report before the start of the pandemic predicted that up to 160 million voters could participate this fall. The health authorities are already warning that without effective treatment, The United States could see an increase in infections this fall, creates a sharp increase in both infections and turnout.

If election officials can make it easier for tens of millions of voters to cast their ballots safely from home, fewer people will show up in person to vote, which could help slow the disease.

What are the benefits of voting by mail?

Voting by mail has other benefits besides helping people exercise social distance.

A post-in choice may be cheaper to run: Colorado, which is 100% of the vote by mail, lowered the election administration by 40% after switching to post-in votes.

It can increase turnout: According to a Utah study, voting by mail can result in higher election results. In the Georgia primary, some voters walked out of long lines instead of waiting to vote. The lines may get worse in November, which increases the frustration of voting in person.

They increase voter turnout for more initiatives and candidates: From the same Utah study, those who voted by mail filled more of their votes than those who voted personally.

They are practical: If you vote by mail, you can save yourself from taking time off from school or work to travel to your polling station and stand in line to vote. You can also submit your votes days and weeks before the election if voting on election day is inconvenient or impossible.

Keep voters safe during the pandemic: By using a post-in ballot, voters can stay away from polling stations and reduce the risk of infection. “You should not have to choose between your health and your ability to decide your vote,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said of voting by mail.

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Many states are working to make voting by mail as easy as possible.

Angela Lang / CNET

What are the arguments against voting by mail?

Despite the benefits of the system, some have raised flags of postal voting.

Concerns about postal fraud: President Donald Trump has repeatedly talked about the risks of voter fraud with post-in votes.

Although there are cases of post-in voter fraud, for example in an election in North Carolina 2018, the cases are extremely rare, says Amber McReynolds, CEO of the National Vote at Home Institute, and Charles Stewart III, director of MIT Election Data and Science Lab.

Two told The Hill and reported that in the last 20 years there have been 1,100 criminal convictions for voter fraud. Of these, 143 were intended votes. It works with one case per state every six or seven years, the two wrote, or about 0.00006% of the total votes over 20 years. To dig into the details, the Heritage Foundation holds a selection of recently selected cases. States also use a variety of methods to ensure the integrity of post-election ballots, including signature verification and post-election audits.

Can benefit a party: Trump has also suggested that postal voting would benefit Democratic candidates. Whether voting by mail benefits a party or not, a study this spring by Stanford University found that while voting by mail increases turnout in modesty, it has no noticeable effect on increasing the turnout for either party. The New York Times also found no evidence to support the claim that post-in votes favored either party. And recent polls suggest Trump’s attacks on postal voting may suppress voting for his own Republican party.

May not be available to everyone: A report from the National Conference of State Legislatures found that citizens who move frequently or live in areas without street addresses may be at a disadvantage with a mail-in system.

Postmarked rules were applied differently at the state level: While some states accept a ballot that has been stamped before election day – even if it arrives after the election – a majority of states that are sent by mail do not count if they do not arrive at the election.

Some states may not be ready to handle post-in votes in November: States that transition to post-in ballots must design, print, and distribute the ballots, and then train voters and electoral companies on how to use and count ballots. The states that already use an e-mail system have spent several years preparing for this. States that are currently moving to the process may only have a few months to get ready for an increase in post-in votes.

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How are states and districts handling postal voting this year?

While each state offers some form of postal voting, the rules for who is allowed to vote and how state by state varies. Five states vote entirely by mail and send an absent ballot to each registered voter; at the other end, four states require voters to submit an application with an apology in order to get a vote by mail. In between, there are no state of emergency that sends a post-in vote to anyone who requests one, for no reason.

How about voting in person?

As some primary elections held this year have already shown, voting in a pandemic can be challenging, with long lines and understaffed polls causing delays. But even with pressure to get voters to cast their ballots by mail, states will still allow them to show up and vote.

Hawaii, for example, is one of five states that vote entirely by e-mail. It also offers polling stations for those who prefer to vote in person. But do not expect to vote in person as in previous elections.

Election officials predict a shortage of voting workers for the November election, and some in California – who hope to hold the November election largely by post-vote – have called on younger voters to help run elections, which are historically overwhelming of senior citizens who this year have a higher risk of infection.

For more: Looks our guide to the 2020 election.

How about voting online?

While some states allow voters to cast their ballots online for state and local elections, in federal elections you cannot vote online and will need to vote either in person or by mail in November.

For more information, here is differences between postal voting and absent voting, why the pandemic can get worse before it gets better and what role social media can play in the autumn election.

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