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Showdown over mail-in ballots heating up ahead of general election

Showdown over mail-in ballots heating up ahead general election
Posted at 8:31 AM, Aug 18, 2020
and last updated 2020-08-18 11:06:55-04

The showdown over mail-in ballots is expected to heat up this week.

Democrats are calling back Congress to vote on legislation to prevent the U.S. Postal Service from changing any of its operations. A House committee also called an emergency hearing for next week to address mail delays and concerns the White House is interfering.

The USPS is removing hundreds of mail processing machines across the country and has warned 46 states that it may not be able to process all mail-in ballots in time to be counted for the election.

“Are we going to force people to have to choose between their fundamental right to vote and their health?” asked Shaundra Scott with the South Carolina Democratic Party. “The American voters are going to be very frustrated that we may not know who the winner is until frankly December.”

Political experts agree the presidential race, pandemic and mail-in voting will all lead to massive increases in voter turnout and probably a lot of contested results.

Some states have streamlined mail-in and absentee voting for years. However, other states are rushing to change their voting process because of the pandemic.

“When things like that happen, it doesn't inspire confidence. It leads to the fear that people who shouldn't be voting may potentially be voting or people that should vote are not going to get ballots because of a snafu,” said Matt Klink, a GOP strategist with Klink Campaigns.

For example, New York changed the rules to make it easier to vote by mail ahead of the primary, and it provided pre-paid envelopes. But those envelopes were not postmarked, or they were returned late. And there were other issues like ballots that weren't signed. That led to one out of four mail-in ballots being disqualified.

But voting by mail could close the gap on inequities.

“Yes, there are rules and regulations that say your employer should give you two hours to be able to vote but if you’re working hourly and you’re working on a job that is shift based, even though voting is extremely important, taking away that two hours of pay from someone and them having to make that decision is huge,” said Scott.

Some expert say Republicans fear mail-in ballots would capture new Democratic voters, but seniors also benefit from absentee and mail-in voting. They often skew red, according to the Brookings Institute.

A major study of California, Utah, and Washington state's elections between 1996 and 2018 found there was no partisan advantage to voting by mail.