Early and Mail-In Voting for 2020 Election Expands Dramatically Despite Legal Fights | Richard H. Pildes/Wall Street Journal
Many Americans are worried that their votes won’t be counted in this election. We’ve seen court battles over how late states will accept absentee ballots, how many drop boxes they’ll provide, what signatures they’ll require and other issues. Nearly every day another 11th-hour decision comes down, including from the Supreme Court. Voting-rights plaintiffs have had mixed results in the courts, and their losses have raised concerns about voter suppression. What’s missing in this focus on court rulings is the bigger picture of how dramatically the voting system has changed for 2020. These changes, mostly made by state governments rather than the courts, have enabled widespread access to political participation, even amid the exceptional stresses of the pandemic. Despite all the election-related anxieties of spring and summer, we are likely to see the highest turnout in more than a century—65% of eligible voters, meaning 150 million votes—according to the latest forecast from the U.S. Elections Project at the University of Florida. A week before Election Day, early voting had already surpassed its 2016 level. The reason is that highly mobilized voters have been able to take advantage of several major policy changes. Once the pandemic hit, the most important issue was whether voters would have the option of easily voting by mail. In particular, would states that normally permit absentee voting only for a narrow set of reasons, such as being away, relax those restrictions? Several months ago, it appeared this might be a vigorously contested question, but it hasn’t turned out that way in most state legislatures.