Washington Secretary of State Kim Wyman is worried. In her state, counting ballots typically entails election officials working shoulder to shoulder, sometimes hundreds to a room. It’s a scene that’s nearly unimaginable in the era of coronavirus. So Washington is working on safety measures, from expanding the space in processing centers to setting up plexiglass between work stations.
Health and hygiene are only the start. While all Washington elections are conducted by mail, other states are less equipped or experienced with handling the large volumes of mail or absentee ballots this year will feature due to the pandemic. Already states like Indiana, Pennsylvania, Ohio and Georgia have seen delayed results and reports of voter disenfranchisement as a result of a rapid expansion of vote by mail.
“I’m concerned nationally that you’re going to have this crush of mail-in ballots that come in on Election Day across the country, the volume is going to swamp election officials, and they are not going to be able to physically get through the processing for days or weeks,” says Wyman, a Republican. “I think that we’re not going to know who the President is until well into November.”
Since March, the National Association of Secretaries of State elections committee has been holding a weekly call to swap information on preparing for an unprecedented election. There are hundreds (thousands!) of ways an election can go awry anyway, but the coronavirus pandemic has complicated preparations. It’s not just the intake of absentee ballots that’s worrying officials like Wyman. The pandemic has brought up a range of new issues, from determining whether coronavirus is a valid reason voters can cite to request an absentee ballot to recruiting poll workers to ensuring there are enough financial resources to make the necessary adaptations.
Nothing less is at stake than the integrity of America’s elections and voters’ faith in the process. And it’s a race against time for states to pull it off. “You asked me what keeps me up at night,” Wyman says. “This is it.”
TIME interviewed nine secretaries of state from both parties. Here are their top concerns:
Will coronavirus be judged a valid reason to request an absentee ballot for the general election?
About a third of states require that voters provide a justification for requesting absentee-ballot applications. When it became clear that coronavirus was going to affect primary contests, election officials in those states had to …read more
Source:: Time – Politics