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Topics / Voter Participation

COVID-19 and Voting: Looking Ahead to the 2020 Presidential Election

Resources to keep voting safe and fair for everyone this election season

While the COVID-19 pandemic has rightfully taken the lion’s share of the nation’s attention, 2020 is also a presidential election year. On November 3, not only the president but the entire House of Representatives and 35 Senate seats are up for reelection. A number of Senate seats could change parties, and there are also a myriad of other state and locally elected positions on the ballot.

The pandemic has prompted numerous changes in our government institutions and civic processes — and election administration is no exception. During the spring and summer primary election season, most experts recommended voting by mail, and given the risks of in-person voting that may still remain in November, now is the time to become aware of your state’s rules around absentee ballots and early voting. If you’ve recently moved or are just not certain that you’re registered, you can check your registration status online through your state’s board of elections or through the National Association of Secretaries of State. Rock the Vote, a Carnegie Corporation of New York grantee, also provides much helpful information around state-specific voting rules.

Currently, Rock the Vote is focusing their efforts on helping young people make an informed decision during the pandemic. In addition to working on an online Vote-at-Home Signup platform, which will provide voters with a central place to request an absentee ballot based on their state’s laws (and which will be mobile-first, since young people are far more likely to use the tool on their phone), they have also designed a state-by-state COVID-19 Voting Information hub.

A focus on y0ung people during the 2020 election season coincides with an increase in their engagement around democracy, as well as their growing belief that they can make a difference, according to a June 2020 Center for Information & Research on Civic Learning and Engagement (CIRCLE) poll. Of the young adults polled, 79 percent say that the COVID-19 pandemic has helped them realize that politics impacts their everyday lives, while 83 percent believe they have the power to change the country. Elevating organizations that provide clear information about online registration and mail-in voting can help facilitate the growing enthusiasm of young people about the electoral process.

Voting suppression is another issue that is certain to be discussed as the 2020 presidential election gains steam. While the process should be a fair and balanced one, it often isn’t. The Brennan Center for Justice, another Corporation grantee, counts strict voter ID rulings and error-prone voter purges as two key ways that voter suppression continues to evolve. Their 2020 report, “Waiting to Vote: Racial Disparities in Election Day Experiences,” details a third way that voter suppression often manifests: long lines at polling stations, especially for Black and Latino Americans.

For every problem, there is a solution, and to that end, the Brennan Center has also outlined the necessary steps for free, fair, accessible, and secure elections under the current pandemic conditions, along with a 50-state chart that tracks adoption and implementation.

Voting in the United States is complicated, but it’s essential that everyone’s voice is heard — and that every vote counts.

A One-Stop Shop for All Voters

Ready to vote early? Check out this widget from Vote Early Day to request your absentee ballot. Or you can make your plan to vote — for those of you who have already received mail ballots or who desire to vote in-person.

TOP: A protester wearing a mask that says "Vote" in Washington Square Park in New York City, June 2020 (Credit: Ira L. Black/Corbis via Getty Images)