“Absentee ballots will be critical this fall. But in-person voting is even more essential”

At the Washington Post, I’ve published this op-ed urging policymakers and election administrators to recognize the critical role in-person voting must continue to play this fall. Here’s the opening of the piece:

As the long lines in recent primary elections show, the desire to vote in person — even during the coronavirus pandemic — remains high. While election officials prepare for unprecedented levels of absentee voting in November, they must also avoid mistakes that undermine the capacity for in-person voting. Indeed, as long as in-person voting can be made reasonably safe and efficient, we should take every step to assure voters they have an in-person voting option — and to encourage them to use it. Failing to do so could lead to major problems.

Tasking election officials with preparing for high levels of absentee voting, while also ensuring capacity for strong in-person voting, is a tall order. They will be tempted to push people into the absentee process and to underinvest in in-person voting, as has happened in several primaries over the last few weeks. Yet, four reasons make in-person voting even more essential this fall. . . .

And this is from the concluding parts of the essay:

All this is prelude, however, to the final and most important reason in-person voting should be encouraged. Even if absentee voting proceeds smoothly, a massive surge in mail-in ballots means hundreds of thousands of votes will not be counted until days after Election Day. Two weeks after its June 2 primaries, Pennsylvania was still counting absentee ballots. That experience creates one of the greatest risks to ensuring an election outcome widely accepted as legitimate this fall. If one candidate is ahead in key states on the night of the election, but loses those leads — and the race — over the course of the following week, charges of a stolen election will inevitably erupt. . . .

If Congress’s contribution is focused on providing funding to enable in-person voting, bipartisan support might be possible. In Kentucky, a coalition of Republican legislators and minority voters sued, unsuccessfully, to force the state to open more in-person sites. Most importantly, election officials, as well as campaigns, must not suggest that absentee voting is the only safe way to vote; that will not only deluge the absentee process but also depress turnout among groups who only trust voting in person.

The more people who vote in person, the sooner the result will be known, the less the risk that the absentee process will collapse, and the lower the threat that the election will melt down. We must not lose sight of that danger, even as states rightly ramp up the absentee part of the election.

[As usual, the Washington Post chose the title for the piece]

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