Today’s Must-Read: Dale Ho: “How to Protect the Election from the Coronavirus”

Dale in NYT Opinion:

We can take four simple steps to reduce the risk of disenfranchisement:

Ramp up public education on voting by mail. The good news is that in most states, eligible voters can already vote by mail. Thirty-three states and the District of Columbia either conduct their elections by mail or permit “no excuse” absentee voting. Americans have been increasingly voting by mail: More than 23 percent of voters cast their ballots by mail in the 2016 presidential elections, up from about 12 percent in 2004….

Broaden access to voting by mail. As noted, most states already offer universal access to mail-in voting. It’s a good idea in general and encourages higher turnout. In the 2018 midterms, for example, states that permit voting by mail had, on average, a 15.5 percentage point higher turnout than states that did not….

Permit early processing of absentee ballots. At present, 15 states do not permit absentee ballots to be tabulated until Election Day. Among them is Michigan, which is allowing absentee voting for the first time in a presidential election (rather than limiting it to those with a particular excuse). Unsurprisingly, absentee ballots were heavily requested the primary, which has raised concerns that results could be substantially delayed if there is a similar surge in November.

A worst-case scenario would be if Michigan, the state with the closest win-loss margin in 2016, is again one of the decisive states in the 2020 election and we are unable to project a winner on election night. (Another decisive state, Pennsylvania, which also just adopted no-excuse absentee voting, also forbids processing absentee ballots until Election Day and could find itself in a similar situation.) It’s worrisome that the Michigan Legislature, however, has so far resisted calls to make the job of elections administrators easier by permitting the processing of early ballots….

Protect the rights of absentee voters. Absentee ballots are rejected at a higher rate than ballots cast in person. One reason may be that voters who cast their ballots by mail cannot obtain help from poll workers. Voters who need assistance must be able to get it, regardless of how they vote.

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