This story is from Bloomberg by Ryan Teague Beckwith:
The coronavirus outbreak that has forced Americans to retreat to their homes and brought the economy to a standstill also threatens to upend the presidential election. Multiple states have rescheduled their spring primaries as the number of confirmed cases of Covid-19 keeps climbing. Some polling places in states that held primaries on March 17 were hastily closed; at others, workers scrambled to disinfect voting machines and keep people 6 feet apart in line. Voters were encouraged by officials to avoid the health risks of in-person voting entirely—by casting their ballots by mail.
The pandemic has prompted new attempts to expand mail-in voting, a trend that has been slowly building over the last two decades. A bill introduced on March 18 by Oregon Senator Ron Wyden—the first U.S. senator elected in a statewide mail-in election—and Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar would require states to allow mail-in and early voting during a pandemic or natural disaster and would provide funding for the cost of ballots and postage, among other things. The stimulus bill passed by the senate on March 25 includes $400 million for states to allow vote by mail, expand early voting and online registration, and hire more workers, but it doesn’t include a mandate. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi predicted the House would pass the bill on Friday, and said additional bills would be needed.
Even apart from such efforts at the national level, there are signs of an avalanche of mail-in ballots in November. In 2016, the 33 million ballots cast by mail amounted to almost one-fourth of all votes. This year, experts say tens of millions more voters could request mail-in ballots, even without changes in federal or state laws. A dramatic rise in absentee ballot requests could swamp smaller elections boards that have traditionally used a handful of workers to handle mail-in ballots (instead of staffing up or using machines that can scan and verify signatures on envelopes) or have held off opening, certifying, and counting them until polls close. It also could mean that the outcome of the presidential race won’t be known for weeks.
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