Methods for voting in 2020

As of today, we are 100 days out
from the November 3 election. Because of the pandemic, many Americans will be
voting before Election Day this year. While much of the news coverage has
focused on absentee voting, there are other ways Americans can cast ballots
before Election Day, including early in-person voting.

According to the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL), 40 states and the District of Columbia permit early in-person voting. Minnesota gives its voters the longest period of time to vote this way. Voting there begins 46 days before the election (September 18) and ends at 5 p.m. on November 2, the day before the general election. NCSL notes that the average starting time for early in-person voting is 22 days before Election Day. Locations and hours vary by state and county. Some states allow early voting on weekends, and a few do so on Sundays.

A voter places their ballot in a curbside ballot drop box to help prevent the spread of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) during the Maryland U.S. presidential primary election as other voters stand in a long line waiting to cast their votes in College Park, Maryland, U.S., June 2, 2020. REUTERS/Jim Bourg

Colorado, Washington, and Oregon are states that vote entirely by mail. According to “America Goes to the Polls 2016: A Report on Voter Turnout in the 2016 Election,” in these vote-by-mail states, “every registered voter automatically receives a ballot in the mail. But in actuality, the majority of voters return their ballot in person to official drop-sites, many open 24/7.”

Polls show that Americans want to expand opportunities to vote by mail this year, and convenience voting has become much more popular generally. The picture on what will be permitted across the country isn’t clear at this point, with 60 lawsuits pending about voting rules, according to a tally by the Washington Post. Thirty-four states and the District of Columbia already allowed anyone to vote absentee, and many of these states are trying to make this easier than it was in the past. In many of the 16 states that usually require an excuse, requirements have been or are in the process of being waived due to the coronavirus. According to the Post, “76 percent of American voters can cast ballots by mail in the fall” if they choose to do so.

In a mid-July Fox News poll of registered voters, 66 percent were extremely (43 percent) or very (23 percent) confident they would be able to vote safely this November. Seventy-five percent of Republicans and 63 percent of Democrats in the poll gave one of these responses.

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