A nationally known elections expert, Professor Nat Persily of Stanford, spoke to a thousand Zoom attendees Sunday night "on the challenges of holding an election in the midst of a pandemic; the real obstacles that will prevent people from being able to vote this fall." The Voter Participation Center, headed by Aaron Frank and Liza Finkelstein, sponsored the event.
In the ugly face of the covid pandemic, Persily and MIT's Professor Charles Stewart III started the Help Elections Project,** focused on battleground states which, Persily said, will largely vote by mail.
Your most effective vote will be cast in person early, thus minimizing chain of custody issues and relieving pressure on officials. If you vote on Election Day, make it mid-day, when lines will be the shortest.
Concerning vote by mail, do so if at all necessary, despite the large wrench thrown at it by the "vote twice" advice offered recently by the sitting president. That on top of aspersions cast on USPS's ability to handle the volume and the supposedly large chance of voter fraud. How many people will be struck by lightning, though, especially if it doesn't thunder?
With the several states that will report all results on Election Night, Persily said we may know right then who will win. It depends, though.
In the Pennsylvania primary, Pittsburgh turned in all its votes on election night, while Philadelphia did the same two weeks later. Florida did very well in the primaries, Aaron Frank said, and if things go as swimmingly in November, if Biden wins there he'll win his four-year chance to fix things.
I can only pray and I recommend others join me. Atheists, don't forget to vote.
As a result of Twitter ploys, a percentage may give up on vote by mail. Five states have voted by mail for a good amount of time: Oregon for decades, and Washington state for years, along with Hawaii, Utah, and Colorado. In Colorado and Washington 75 percent of voters use drop boxes rather than mail to vote. New Jersey, California, and Nevada will also vote by mail entirely this year. In Arizona 79 percent of votes will use mail-in or drop-box options. Then there are states that will vote by mail for the first time this year in large numbers, including North Carolina and Pennsylvania.
NGOs as well as the CDC have guidelines on sanitizing polling places. Recruiting polling place workers is crucial this year, and several NGOs are hard at work on this, including the Michigan ACLU and the PA Voter Project. Detroit's need for poll workers is huge. Pennsylvania needs 20,000 poll workers. Severe reductions occurred in the populous inner cities during the primaries, and the results were expectable and pathetic. Five percent of Milwaukee's polling places were open for this year's primaries. The more workers we can recruit, and higher wages were suggested as a huge motivator, the more polling places can be opened.
With senior centers, schools, and libraries not available this year for voting, other scenarios are emerging, including stadia courtesy of the NBA and big box stores. The problem in this case is not social distancing, which they provide--for both casting and counting votes--but how to travel to these places for those needing transportation. Uber and Lyft have volunteered, and Old Navy will pay its employees to offer transportation to the polls as well.
The voting period has essentially begun, said Persily. North Carolina will be mailing out ballots in a few daysno state concentrates on voting issues until after Labor Day, not even this year.
If you vote by mail, fill in your ballot carefully the minute you receive it and proceed immediately to either mail it or take it to a drop box if you have one. Our president doesn't like those either, and has singled out Pennsylvania for having them. (I voted using one--that's another story I wrote a few months ago.)
Some of us have to vote in person: if we use SDR (same-day registration where it is offered) or if we have special needs only polling places can accommodate. We'll also go to the polls if we don't receive our mail-in ballot in time. This happened in Washington, DC, in 2016, when the district used early voting for the first time because there was no alternative.
In other progress, Persily has worked with Stanford designers to design covid-appropriate polling place arrangements, facilities, and EPE distribution, which they are distributing where needed.
And the exigencies go on. Facebook is donating prominent space for detailed instructions on how to vote. Education and outreach are crucial to maximize the number who vote.
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