Report: U.S Has Tools for Pandemic Election After Democracy Movement Wins Voting Options in 40+ States; Roadblocks Remain for 2020 Elections

Thursday, October 8, 2020

For Immediate Release:
Contact: Roger Kerson, 734.645.0535, rkerson@democracyinitiative.org

Report: U.S. Has Tools for Pandemic Election After
Democracy Movement Wins Voting Options in 40+ States;
Roadblocks Remain for 2020 Elections

WASHINGTON – U.S. voters have the tools for successful voting during a pandemic election in 2020, says “Roadblocks and Remedies – the State of Voting 2020,” a new report from the Democracy Initiative (DI).

“The democracy movement has been fighting for – and winning – voting reforms for decades,” said DI Executive Director Wendy Fields. “The result is expanded access to the ballot box, so we are more prepared for voting during a pandemic. We’re fighting back against racism and voter suppression, for safe in-person voting on Election Day, and to create a voting system that works for how we live and work in the 21st century.”

Building on earlier victories, grass-roots advocates won major reforms in 21 states in 2018 and 2019, and several states have implemented new rules to increase voting options this year. The state of voting in 2020 now includes:

  • Vote by mail in 45 states and the District of Columbia (DC).
  • Early Voting in 43 states (and DC).
  • 39 states (and DC) with three voting options: Vote-by-mail, Early Voting, and in-person voting on Election Day.
  • 20 states (and DC) with same-day voter registration (including North Dakota, where no registration is required).

Only one remaining state – Mississippi – has in-person voting on Election Day as the only option available to all voters.

“We know the more choices a voter has, the easier it is for them to exercise the choice that works best for them,” said Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson. “I am working hard to ensure even in the midst of a pandemic voters have that full range of options for how to cast their ballot, and can be assured no matter how they choose to do so it will be safe, accessible and secure.”

Obstacles to successful voting still remain, says Nsé Ufot of The New Georgia Project, a voter registration and education organization that is currently contacting 100,000 voters of color every week. “In Georgia, we’re dealing with glitchy new voting machines, a suspect match program that disqualifies eligible voters and a flawed resource allocation that will lead to long lines for voters in Black neighborhoods,” said Ufot. “But here is what I know, Georgians are excited about voting and preparing to overcome these challenges. From pandemic to protests to the polls to power is more than just a slogan; it’s our reality.”

Voting reforms are still needed in Mississippi, said Dr. Corey Wiggins, executive director of the Mississippi State Conference of the NAACP. Mississippi is the only remaining state in the United States where in-person voting on Election Day is the only option available to all voters.

“Voting during daylight hours on one Tuesday in November is outdated, unfair – and unhealthy during a pandemic,” said Wiggins. “Democracy is about a participatory process and the long-held policies and practices of limiting access to ballot should end now.”

New options for voting – including vote-by-mail and Early Voting – require extra efforts at voter education said Scott Holiday, chief of staff of SEIU Health Care Michigan. The union represents health care workers at hospitals, nursing home and other frontline occupations.

“What happens at the ballot box makes a huge difference in the issues that affect our daily lives – affordable health care, the right to organize, safety on the job,” said Holiday. “If you’re a working person, you can’t afford not to vote. This year, that means know the rules, make a plan, and vote early.”

The DI “Roadblocks and Remedies” report identifies ten major roadblocks to successful voting, including:

  1. You are not registered to vote, or your registration is not current.
  2. You applied for a mail ballot, but it did not arrive.
  3. You don’t want to vote in person on Election Day this year, but you can’t find information about where to vote early or where to drop off a vote-by-mail ballot.
  4. Your ballot arrives late to your election office and is not counted.
  5. Your ballot envelope is not signed, not submitted correctly or not witnessed in states requiring a witness, so your vote is not counted.
  6. You are at your polling place for in-person voting on Election Day, but told you are not on the voting list.
  7. Early voting and mail ballots are allowed but your state does not allow processing or counting of ballots until Election Day, resulting in delays.
  8. Voter suppression: Ballots delayed, uncounted by intentional slowdown of the US mail, closed polling places, purges of voter rolls, or restrictive voter ID laws.
  9. Voter suppression in the courts: Ballots delayed or disqualified by court rulings.
  10. Disinformation or confusion about election results before all votes are counted. With millions of voters exercising their right to Early Voting or vote-by-mail, it is likely that results will not be available on Election Day or even the morning after. Getting it right is more important than getting it fast.

The Democracy Initiative has identified remedies for these obstacles to voting, centered on national campaign by democracy advocates to educate voters to Know the Rules, Make a Plan and Vote Early.

Roadblocks and Remedies also identifies resources to assist voters, including:

* * *

The Democracy Initiative is a coalition of 75 organizations with a collective 45 million members fighting for workers, civil rights, social justice and the environment. DI partner organizations are united in their commitment to realizing the promise of American democracy where all people have an equal seat at the governance table.