Vote at Home | Weekly Roundup August 24, 2020

Beth Hladick
Director, Research & Outreach
Unite America

Yesterday an Iowa judge voided more than 50,000 applications for absentee ballots, prompting election officials to resend applications to thousands of voters because of issues with original requests. Iowa’s second-largest county mailed 140,000 pre-filled absentee ballot request forms to voters. The judge sided with the Trump campaign, which argued the forms should have been blank except for the election date and type, per the Iowa SOS’s original directive. 

Across 23 state primaries, more than 534,000 ballots were rejected (nearly a quarter in key battlegrounds for the fall). [NPR reported at least 550,000 across 30 states.] The rejection rate is especially notable in the context of the 2016 election, when Donald Trump won Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin by approximately 80,000 votes. “If the election is close, it doesn’t matter how well it was run — it will be a mess,” said Charles Stewart III, a political science professor at MIT who studies election data. “The two campaigns will be arguing over nonconforming ballots, which is going to run up against voters’ beliefs in fair play,” he said.

Pew reports the slow return of mail ballots in swing states will likely delay the November election results, and open the door to election challenges and controversy. In 13 states and DC, election officials can’t start processing absentee ballots until Election Day, and in three more, states can’t start processing until the polls close. The Bipartisan Policy Center released a related comprehensive report this week, detailing recommendations on the entire election administration ecosystem, including counting votes. 

Virginia lawmakers advance absentee voting legislation during their special session, including policy change to prepay postage on absentee ballots, set up drop boxes, and establish a process for voters to fix issues on improperly executed ballots. “For the last 10 years, the then-majority party was doing nothing but trying to suppress the vote. Things are changing now,” said Sen. Mamie Locke, D-Hampton, chair of the Senate Democratic Caucus. “We want to encourage people to vote, and to make it as safe as we possibly can during the pandemic.” 

Lebron James’s “More Than a Vote” effort, in collaboration with the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, pledged millions to recruit poll workers in Black communities. Also this week, Starbucks joined Walmart, Apple, Coca-Cola, Twitter, Cisco, PayPal, and Uber, announcing they’d give employees flexibility or the day off to vote on Election Day. This year, more than 600 companies plan to do the same (in 2018, 150 companies participated — hopes for 1,000 by November). 

For a longer weekend read, check out Atlantic’s story on why The U.S. is Facing the Possibility of a Truly Illegitimate Election (but how Americans can still fight to protect democracy this year and beyond).

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