Are States Ready for a COVID-19 Election?

From Rand: For Entire Post, Go Here…

In most states, conducting elections means bringing together large groups of people, often in small spaces, to use shared machines to cast their votes. But to hold an election safely during the COVID-19 pandemic, states need registration and voting options that do the opposite—minimize personal contact, reduce crowds, and limit common access to high-touch surfaces.

Are states prepared to do this? To find out, RAND researchers assessed how much flexibility states have in terms of where, when, and how residents can register to vote and cast their ballots. The researchers examined three key areas:

  • Voter registration: The availability of online, automatic, and same-day registration can help limit the amount of person-to-person contact required to register to vote.
  • Remote voting: Voting by mail provides an option for voters to cast their ballots without gathering at a polling place on Election Day.
  • Early voting: By distributing voters across times and locations, early voting policies help to “spread out” the voting process—limiting the amount of interpersonal contact on Election Day.

These policies may have other implications, especially for voting access and election integrity. However, this analysis focuses on how such policies enable disease-fighting measures like social distancing, and in turn, support a state’s ability to conduct safe elections in November. For more on the issues of access and integrity, read our related report, Options for Ensuring Safe Elections.

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