What states need to do
We’ve identified four key strategies for making free, fair, safe November elections possible in the face of COVID-19:
Make registering from home easy
Face-to-face voter registration procedures are unsafe during the pandemic, so states need to provide other ways for eligible voters to update their registration status. Only 18 states have automatic voter registration, which is both eligible and secure. Other options like online registration are more widespread, but often include requirements that limit access. All states should offer accessible online registration along with same-day registration.
Make voting by mail easy
The safest way for people to vote this November is for every eligible voter to receive a ballot in the mail that can be returned in a self-adhesive, postage-paid envelope or dropped off at a secure ballot box. Unfortunately, too many states are behind the curve on vote-by-mail. Scaling up capacity is crucial. It will require removing legal barriers, expanding states’ capacity to handle mail ballots, investing in the US Postal Service, and implementing technology to allow voters to track their ballots.
Ensure safe, accessible in-person voting
Millions of Americans, due to disabilities or other factors, have no option but to vote in person. To meet their needs, states should establish strategically located voting centers and keep them open for at least two weeks before Election Day to prevent long lines and crowded polling places. By following Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines for precinct hygiene and sanitation, states can make in-person voting a safe option for those who need it, ensuring that all voters have an equal opportunity to exercise their right to vote.
Guarantee an accurate, secure election count
Expansion of mail-in voting will require transparent and rigorous processes to verify ballots—including training for verification judges—and to ensure that voters have an adequate opportunity to correct ballot errors. Election officials also need time to process and validate election results accurately, which means that election results in many places won’t be available on election night. To maintain public confidence in the election process, states will need to work with local media and political organizations to ensure that the public is receiving accurate information. It will take months to put these procedures in place.