The rapidly escalating coronavirus pandemic has forced election officials to consider a sobering reality: The crisis could run headlong into November’s presidential election, and revamping America’s voting systems before then could be difficult and in some cases impossible.
Even as they postpone upcoming primaries, state and local officials are racing to find longer-term solutions to ensure that the public can safely vote on Nov. 3. While there is growing consensus that voting by mail is the safest way to cast ballots during a pandemic, implementing that system across the country is a huge undertaking that may not be possible, particularly in states where it is limited by law.
In the past week, elections officials have been swapping advice on what it would take: enormous orders of printed ballots and envelopes, high-speed scanners capable of counting the returns and in some cases constitutional amendments to lift restrictions on who may vote by mail — and hundreds of millions of dollars to pay for it all.
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