Absentee votes: voter fraud, voter suppression and political machination

Just as millions of people across the United States are heading to the polling stations to vote in this 2020 election, it is unclear how this day will go by. Throughout the campaign, we saw a country divided along partisan, economic, racial, religious, ethnic, and geographic lines. We witnessed the aggravation of polarization, gerrymandering, registration obstacles, and misinformation, all of this against the backdrop of an uncontrollable pandemic. 

It is not only the WHO but also the HOW that will be of importance in this election. To reduce the threat of spreading the virus on Election Day, states have decided, early on, to increase absentee voting. However, this issue is a very divisive one.

The coronavirus crisis has transformed the management of the electoral process, with the massive use of postal voting. A recent Pew Research survey found that 70 percent of Americans want to mail in their ballots, and many states have made it easier for them to do so. To make it simple, those voters won’t have to go to polling stations on election day. They could cast their vote by mailing them in or using drop-boxes.  But each state has its own law on how and where voters can cast their ballots. All voters have to be registered. Then, depending on the states, people will either automatically receive a mail-in ballot or have to apply for these ballots. Some states ask for a valid excuse to cast absentee ballots. In total, around 84% of voters will have the possibility to vote using mail-in ballots. 

Q&A: 1. Casting a ballot by mail isn’t a new way to vote, but it became controversial this year because it was politically charged. Donald Trump fought against the expansion of mail-voting out of fear that it would be bad politically for the Republican Party. Although research disputes this notion, why is he so adamant on this issue? What is he afraid of? 

2. Louis Dejoy, US post service director and major donor to Republicans and Committees supporting Trump, came under fire for the changes he decided to implement ahead of the elections. Democrats raised alarms that some budget cuts would affect late delivery and overtime could delay the mail and impact absentee votes. In your opinion, were these changes politically motivated ? Was there a political machination or is this unfortunate episode the result of a conspiracy theory aimed at destabilizing the Republican campaign? 

3. What are the political challenges of absentee votes?

4. Some surveys show that Democrats are more willing to vote by mail while Republicans prefer to go in person to polling stations. Will this give an advantage to Democrats ? 

Susie Muselet, Philippine Thibaudault, Emma Rodot