Can Election Day 2020 be secure — and safe for in-person voting?

Charles Stewart III on logistical challenges facing election officials

"It is likely that even if election officials pull out all the stops and make paper ballots available to the greatest number of people possible, most voters will cast ballots in person this November. How to make this safe?" 

— Charles Stewart III, Kenan Sahin Distinguished Professor of Political Science

Research and Perspectives for the Pandemic
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"In the midst of the greatest public health crisis the U.S. has faced in at least a century, the nation’s election administrators are scrambling to plan how 165 million Americans will vote safely and securely in November. Inattention to the health challenge risks contributing to a flare-up of the virus. Poorly executed logistics risk creating chaos at the polls. The stakes are high.

"Postponing the November 3rd election is not an option. Both the U.S. Constitution and federal law establish Election Day, and there is no chance Congress could change either in the next months. States have been postponing primaries, but the latitude afforded parties and states to schedule their own elections will diminish significantly in the fall.

"Thus, the question is whether the 2020 presidential election will be safe and result in a legitimate outcome.

"The response to the coronavirus crisis and the COVID-19 illness it causes will revolve around two major strategies.

"First, paper ballots must be available to more voters. Every mail ballot is one less voter in a polling place. Achieving this will fall largely on the shoulders of state officials — governors, secretaries of state, legislators and election boards. Decisions on how to increase mail-in voting need to be made in the next four to six weeks.

"Second, polling places must be made safe for poll workers and voters. Responsibility for this will fall mainly on the shoulders of the ground troops of election administration, ranging from state election directors to poll workers. These same people also bear the responsibility of implementing decisions related to expanding the availability of mail ballots."

Full commentary by Charles Stewart at MarketWatch


Suggested links

Charles Stewart's MIT webpage

MIT Election Data and Science Lab

MIT Political Science