The Biggest Factor in the 2020 Election? Will Voters Vote by Mail or In-Person?

elections Sep 18, 2020

As COVID-19 continues to spread in the US, voters are preparing to cast their ballots for this November’s presidential election. The 2020 election already looks completely different from prior years, as more voters are choosing to cast their ballots from home to mitigate risks of catching the virus.

In this post, you’ll learn about the issues facing voters during the pandemic, how voters are choosing to vote, why voting methods matter, and what precautions are being taken to make sure that voting is safe for everyone.

What Issues Are There With Voting in 2020?

The most important thing in any election is making sure every voter’s ballot is counted and as many voters as possible make their voices heard. COVID-19 creates challenges to that goal, since voters are nervous about in-person voting during the pandemic. The result could be low voter turnout this November which could affect the outcome of the election.

How Could Increased Mail-In Voting Change the Election? And What is A Red Mirage?

More people are expected to vote by mail this year to avoid COVID-19 risk. In 2016, only 20% of voters cast a vote by mail, according to a Pew Research poll. In a recent Skip poll, we found that 25% of users are planning to vote by mail, and another 30% have not decided how they want to vote. Only 45% of voters are certain that they want to vote in person.

Ballots are being mailed out to voters across the country starting this month and next. Voters will be able to send in their ballots from now until Election Day, and even after November 3 election officials will still be counting and processing mail in ballots. Most states do not publish the results of mail-in ballots until after in-person voting is complete. It’s expected that more Republican voters will vote in-person, so election officials are concerned about the possibility of a “red mirage”: the appearance that Trump has won the election until all mail-in ballots are counted.

To avoid a red mirage and create a real-time picture of the election as it happens, Skip has created an election polling feature on the Skip dashboard. Mail-in voters can report who they voted for once they submit their mail-in ballot, and we can see how the election is changing and developing over the next several months. Mail-in voters can also track their ballot with our free tracker.

Why Are People Choosing to Vote by Mail?

People are choosing to vote by mail during this election cycle because they want to avoid any risk of contracting COVID-19. Mail-in voting is convenient and secure, and mail-in voter fraud is virtually nonexistent. Some people also prefer voting from home so that they can fill out their ballot at their own pace, and others want to be able to vote without having to take time off of work to visit a polling place.

States have changed their requirements for mail-in and absentee ballots during this election cycle due to the COVID-19 crisis. 9 states are mailing mail in ballots to every voter, and another 36 are allowing any voter to request a mail in ballot with no excuse (or concern about COVID-19 as the excuse).

Why Are People Choosing to Vote In-Person?

For many people, voting in-person is familiar to them. They may never have voted by mail before and would prefer to vote in the way that they always have. Others  enjoy the traditions of voting in-person and feel a sense of community at the polls. There are voters who don't have reliable mail service or an address to receive a ballot. Lastly, some people want to make their voting decisions on election day, rather than filling out a mail-in ballot early.

Although states are trying to make mail-in voting as convenient and easy as possible for voters, some still prefer the ease of the polling place rather than having to mail or drop off their ballots.

What Precautions Are Being Taken for In-Person Voting?

Elections officials are working hard to make voting in-person as safe as possible. They're taking precautions like plexi-glass shields at check in areas, spaced out voting machines and socially distant lines. During state elections earlier this summer, voters were required to wear masks and encouraged to bring their own pens to fill out their ballots. A few states even had drive through voting, where voters could fill out ballots from their cars. More states are allowing for early in-person voting this election, to space out voters and avoid crowds.

However, challenges remain with in person voting, including longer lines due to social distancing protocols, fewer volunteer poll workers due to concerns about the virus, and COVID-19 risk to voters in indoor polling places. The risk of COVID-19 can't be eliminated entirely from in-person voting.

How Can Voters Get Information About Voting and Cast Their Ballot?

However you want to vote this year, you can get information about making sure your ballot is counted from voter resource organizations like the ones in this guide. You can also request and track your mail-in ballot with Skip’s free tracker.

The most important thing to remember is that if you are registered to vote, you can and should cast your ballot in whatever way you are most comfortable. If you’re nervous about COVID-19 or can’t get to a polling place, you can cast a ballot from home and mail it, drop it in a ballot box or drop it off at your polling place. If you would rather fill out your ballot in person, you can to the polls on election day or request to vote early in person.

Closing Out: Make Sure You Vote, However You Want To

More voters than ever are choosing the convenience of mail in voting, but in person voting is available this election too.  Voting access is a defining factor in the 2020 election, one of the most contentious in recent memory. Whether voters cast their ballots from home or from the polling place, it is key that every voter has the chance to make their voice heard.  If you choose to vote in person, bring  a face covering, hand sanitizer and your own pen. If you want to vote by mail, send your ballot in early and make sure you fill it out correctly to be sure it isn't thrown out. Follow along with the Skip blog for more elections info, from now until November.

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