ELECTION 2020

Which way of casting a ballot this year is best for you?
News and research in the leadup to the 2020 election.
 


Election workers process absentee ballots for the primary elections in Portland, Maine / David Sharp / AP


Research and Perspectives for the Pandemic
Main Page



RESOURCES

 

CHARLES STEWART III AND NATHANIEL PERSILY
Six Ways to Protect the Election | Step 1: Know how and when you're going to vote
"The 2020 election is underway. Not just the campaign—the actual voting has already begun. The pandemic presents a huge challenge, but we can still ensure a safe and accessible vote this November. Here are six ways to make that happen." 20 September 2020
New York Times article


MIT ELECTION DATA AND SCIENCE LAB
Mission + Research
The non-partisan MIT Election Lab supports advances in election science by collecting, analyzing, and sharing core data and findings. The Lab works to help make all forms of voting in the U.S. safe, secure, trustworthy, and effective.
Website | @MITElectionLab | Research on Voting by Mail and Absentee Voting

THE PROJECT FOR HEALTHY ELECTIONS
Up-to-date information from the Stanford-MIT Healthy Elections Project
A compendium of election research, tools, and recommendations. To ensure confidence in the 2020 elections, Healthy Elections is currently encouraging the nation's media to educate the U.S. public about the near-certain delay in getting a full, accurate count of votes in November due to increased mail-in ballots.  Website | @HealthElex
 




FOUR WAYS TO CAST YOUR VOTE | WHICH IS BEST FOR YOU?
 

Early In-Person Voting before November 3

Mail-In or Absentee Ballot
as early as possible


Deliver a Mail-In or Absentee Ballot Yourself as early as possible

In-Person Voting
on Election Day

 



EARLY IN-PERSON VOTING

"If I were advising someone at lower health risk, I would say think about early in-person voting," said Professor Charles Stewart III of MIT. "But go early in the process and don't wait until the last minute."


ABC NEWS
Early In-Person Voting is an option for those at a lower health risk
"There's another voting method that's proven effective at tallying counts while reducing lines on Election Day: early in-person voting. Forty-one states and the District of Columbia have rules that allow their constituents to lock in their vote days before Election Day -- even on weekends -- either at in-person polling stations or through in-person absentee submissions."
Story at ABC News


About
"Early voting periods range in length from four days to 45 days before Election Day, with an average length of 19 days, according to the NCSL. Charles Stewart III, a professor of political science at MIT, told ABC News some early voting poll sites and drop-off centers provide voters with better site resources than others. Some sites, particularly ones located in election offices, have full-time employees who have better training and knowledge than volunteers, he said."

"Even if you see longer lines during in-person early voting, they won't be as long as if we forced people to wait in line on Election Day.... McDonald also said early in-person voting would alleviate concerns from voters who are worried their mail-in ballot won't be received by their election office on time or be disqualified due to a technicality.

"Stewart predicted that regardless of how states prepare, a large proportion of the electorate will opt to vote before Election Day, and the nation needs to do a better job at handling this demand. "One of the takeaways from voters in this election is that there are more ways of voting that considered," he said. "We want to create a resilient election system, because this may not be the last pandemic we face in our lifetime."
More Information at ABC News
 

This map will be updated as more states allow early voting in 2020.  

 

FIND VOTING INFORMATION FOR YOUR STATE

Information on forms of voting, deadlines, poll locations, more
Interactive site at the League of Women Voters

State-by-State Guide to Voting in 2020
Voting in the age of COVID-19, from 538

Six Ways to Protect the Election | Step 1: Know how and when you're going to vote
New York Times article

 


MAIL-IN AND ABSENTEE BALLOTS


Voting-by-mail should be safer for citizens at high-risk for the Covid virus than voting in-person on Election Day — and voting by mail has been an honest and successful way to vote in many U.S. States. Vote fraud in the U.S. is exceedingly rare, with mailed ballots and otherwise.

But voting by mail does generate more "lost" (or uncounted) ballots than in-person voting, and this year there will be several additional issues with voting-by mail: processing the vastly increased number of mail-in ballots; late delivery of ballots due to recent changes in the US Postal Service; and a slowed count of the vote.

If you use a mail in or absentee ballot, consider delivering the ballot yourself — putting it in a secure Election Dropbox, or taking it to your local Election Office. 

Here follows information about mail-in voting, as well as information about dropping off a ballot in dropbox, and voting in person on Election Day. 

 

MIT ELECTION LAB
Research on Voting by Mail and Absentee Voting
Americans have traditionally voted in neighborhood polling places, but beginning in the 1980s, many states have eased rules on issuing absentee ballots, allowed voters to cast ballots in person before Election Day, or even begun mailing ballots to all voters.
Research on Voting by Mail and Absentee Voting

HEALTHY ELECTIONS PROJECT
Vote by Mail Guide
This guide is the most comprehensive aggregation of publicly available resources regarding vote by mail, designed primarily for election officials considering expansion of vote by mail and others seeking a deeper understanding of the current vote-by-mail landscape and expansion policies under consideration in many states.  Visit the Guide

THE WASHINGTON POST
How likely is it that your mail-in ballot won't get counted? | Charles Stewart III
"The greatest risks of voting by mail are voters' own mistakes. To minimize this problem, election officials can warn voters that a mistake on their absentee ballot means it won't be counted — or they can design ballots and instructions using plain language.
Analysis at the Washington Post 8/25/2020
 

THE LOS ANGELES TIMES
GOP-controlled Senate denies funding to handle flood of mail-in ballots
"The House months ago approved $3.6 billion to aid local and state elections officials in dealing with an expected flood of mail-in ballots this fall. The money has stalled in the Republican-controlled Senate — part of the larger stalemate over a new round of help for people and businesses devastated by the economic impact of the pandemic." 
Story at The LA Times

FAST COMPANY
How to make sure your mail-in ballot actually counts
A few general best practices will go a long way toward making sure your mail-in ballot gets counted, regardless of where you live. Those best practices address the most common reasons that mail-in ballots are rejected. In short, they are: Sign the ballot, sign it right, follow the instructions, and send it in on time. Story details each aspect of mail-in ballots.
Story at Fast Company 8/27/20

NBC NEWS
Absentee ballots rejected at higher rates than in-person votes | Charles Stewart III
"Absentee ballots are rejected at higher rates than those cast in person...An extensive study by Charles Stewart III, director of MIT's Election Data and Science Lab, estimates the true number of uncounted mail ballots in 2016 was 1.4 million—4 percent of all mail ballots cast. 'Voting by mail is twice as involved administratively than voting in person,' Stewart said. 'And first-time voters are more likely to have their ballots rejected.'"
More at NBC News

WGBH
Understaffed polling stations and vote processing hurdles | Charles Stewart III
Stewart, the Kenan Sahin Distinguished Professor of Political Science at MIT, pushed back on the idea that mail-in voting itself is the issue. He expressed concern instead about how understaffed polling stations and processing hurdles could delay results, and potentially sow doubt in the public's mind.   Commentary at WGBH


FIND VOTING INFORMATION FOR YOUR STATE

Information on forms of voting, deadlines, poll locations, more
Interactive site at the League of Women Voters

State-by-State Guide to Voting in 2020
Voting in the age of COVID-19, from 538

Six Ways to Protect the Election | Step 1: Know how and when you're going to vote
New York Times article

 


DELIVER A MAIL-IN OR ABSENTEE BALLOT YOURSELF

 

Deliver a ballot to your election office or a designated election dropbox
Currently at least 25 states allow voters who opt for mail or absentee voting to drop off their ballots at their election office, polling sites, or designated dropboxes. That number may grow over the coming weeks.
 

FIND VOTING INFORMATION FOR YOUR STATE

Information on forms of voting, deadlines, poll locations, more
Interactive site at the League of Women Voters

State-by-State Guide to Voting in 2020
Voting in the age of COVID-19, from 538

Six Ways to Protect the Election | Step 1: Know how and when you're going to vote
New York Times article

 


IN-PERSON VOTING ON ELECTION DAY

 

HEALTHY ELECTIONS PROJECT
Guide to Voting on Election Day
While many states have significantly ramped up their vote-by-mail capacity, some voters in state primaries and the general election this fall will vote in person. This page compiles resources for voters and officials to conduct those elections safely.
Visit the In Person Voting Guide
 

Become a Poll Worker
"Election administrators across the country rely on citizen poll workers to staff polling places and deliver other key services...Because more than half of all poll workers are over the age of 60 in most elections...we need new volunteers to have a successful and healthy election in November.
Healthy Elections: How to become a poll worker
Fair Elections Center: State-by-State info on how to work at the polls on Election Day
 

FIND VOTING INFORMATION FOR YOUR STATE

Information on forms of voting, deadlines, poll locations, more
Interactive site at the League of Women Voters

State-by-State Guide to Voting in 2020
Voting in the age of COVID-19, from 538

Six Ways to Protect the Election | Step 1: Know how and when you're going to vote
New York Times article

 


COUNTING THE VOTE



THE VOTE COUNT IN NOVEMBER 2020 WILL TAKE TIME


While media organizations may "call" an election on election night based on early tabulation of votes, the outcome of a Presidential election is never officially known on election night, but only when the Electoral College votes, on the first Monday after the second Wednesday of December, which this year is December 14.

About the 2020 elections, Charles Stewart III, Kenan Sahin Distinguished Professor of Political Science, and election expert says: "We will need to be patient, especially when it comes to finding out who won the November election. With the increase in mail voting and the likely shortage of personnel to count the ballots, vote counting will be delayed. Election officials need to plan for this, and create ways for the delayed vote-count still to be transparent. Still, it’s going to be delayed, and we need to be prepared for that."

 

ABC NEWS
Counting all ballots in November may take several weeks | Charles Stewart III
Stewart, director of the MIT Election Data & Science Lab, is concerned that the time needed to count all ballots properly, and the resulting confusion, could last for "a couple weeks, maybe longer."
Story at ABC News

538
Why we're planning for an election day that could last months
A public service project meant to help voters navigate the latest voting rules in their state.
Website

THE NEW YORK TIMES
Vote Counts Change. Please Don't Panic. | Charles Stewart III
"What concerns MIT election expert Charles Stewart isn't voting fraud [which is vanishingly rare in the U.S.], but rather how a changing vote total that tends to move in one direction can be misunderstood by an anxious public and exploited by politicians eager to preserve any advantage. 'It may start to look as if, when an election goes into extra innings, one of the two teams is given extra at-bats."  Story at the New York Times

THE ATLANTIC
The 'Blue Shift' will decide the election | Charles Stewart III
The blue shift remains little studied and poorly understood. In a 2015 paper, Foley and the MIT political scientist Charles Stewart III found evidence that the blue shift was correlated with the number of provisional ballots cast.  Story at The Atlantic
 


OTHER VOTING RESEARCH AND NEWS



ASSOCIATED PRESS
'Poor People's Campaign' eyes low-income voters in 13 states | MIT Election Lab
A coalition of activists, unions, and religious leaders inspired by the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.’s last organizing effort said Tuesday new data suggest low-income voters in key states could swing some U.S. Senate races.  Story at the Associated Press

THE BOSTON GLOBE
Should voters rank their preferences instead? | Jesse Clark, MIT PhD candidate
“Without some voter outreach and investing both time and money...you won't have a system that improves much on what we already have,” said Clark, a PhD candidate at MIT who has closely studied ranked-choice voting.  Story at The Boston Globe
 

FIND VOTING INFORMATION FOR YOUR STATE

Information on forms of voting, deadlines, poll locations, more
Interactive site at the League of Women Voters

State-by-State Guide to Voting in 2020
Voting in the age of COVID-19, from 538

 

Suggested links

MIT Election Data and Science Lab

Stanford-MIT Healthy Elections Project

Charles Stewart | MIT webpage

MIT Department of Political Science

League of Women Voters

538 | 2020 Election