What needs to happen to scale up vote-by-mail operations by November?
Any large-scale vote-by-mail effort would require significant funding. The recent stimulus bill included $400 million for election preparedness purposes. However, states were left with a lot of freedom in how they choose to use that funding, with no requirements related to voting by mail.
Additionally, most estimates indicate that far more than $400 million would be necessary. The Brennan Center suggests up to $1.4 billion to ensure that a “vote-by-mail option is available to all voters.”
A group of academics from universities across the country recently formed the Ad Hoc Committee for 2020 Election Fairness and Legitimacy to provide 14 recommendations related to four topics: legal, media, politics and norms, and technology. Many of the recommendations are related to voting by mail, including urging Congress to provide adequate funding.
Because of the complications caused by Covid-19, voting by mail is becoming even more of a hot-button political issue than it already was. While Wisconsin’s messy April 7 primary has many state leaders seeking ways to avoid similar issues, President Trump has repeatedly expressed negative opinions about voting by mail.
Meanwhile, Senators Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) and Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) have been publicly pushing for more federal funding toward establishing safe voting procedures in light of the pandemic crisis, and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) has also expressed support for voting by mail.
As Bloomberg Government’s Emily Wilkins reported, a number of states have announced that they will switch to all-mail voting, including Ohio, Maryland, and Nevada, while others, such as Rhode Island, are considering it. But experts warn that it’s a process that is difficult to rush without negatively impacting voters.
Ultimately, the two greatest challenges for states seeking to expand vote-by-mail options will likely be funding and determining how to complete by November a process that often takes years.