July 29, 2020 — According to governance experts, the upcoming November election will operate on a significantly different timeline than traditional U.S. elections.
The majority of Americans, 60 to 65 percent, are expected to vote by absentee ballots in the 2020 election, said Elaine Kamarck, founding director of the Center for Effective Public Management, during a Brookings Institution webinar on Tuesday.
Panelists claimed that cities and states are ready for what promises to be an unprecedented number of mail-in ballots, but the process of counting votes may take more time than usual.
“To count all these absentee ballots is going to take some time,” Kamarck said, explaining that the final vote must be tallied by December 14, the constitutional date for the meeting of the electoral college.
“We have November 3 to December 14 to get this done and get it done right,” she said.
Panelists said that they were anxious that the upcoming election could become long and contested.
Domestic misinformation was more likely to cause this outcome than foreign misinformation, they said.
President Donald Trump has continued to spread misinformation online regarding the security of mail-in votes, Kamarck said, even though mail-in ballots have historically had low levels of corruption associated with them and are extremely difficult to influence.
Kamarck said she believed that Trump was attempting to sow doubts against the legitimacy of the election system to lay the foundation for contesting the outcome if he loses.
“In reality, we have a far healthier and more secure voting infrastructure than we did in the past,” said Susan Hennessey, executive editor at Lawfare.
Many people are working to make sure voting in the upcoming election is secure, as it is in everyone’s interest, she said.
While voting infrastructure has improved, COVID-19 is putting a strain on election resources. The pandemic has caused a shortage in polling volunteers, resulting in fewer polling locations being open.
Hennessey expressed fears that the government’s failure to control the pandemic will lead to an amplification of voter suppression, bringing the legitimacy of election results into question.
America has good election machinery, Kamarck said, but lacks a good approach to counter lies, misinformation and voter suppression.
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