As a restive and wary America drifts closer to Election Day, officials in a number of states are warning that in a year like no other, the process of counting votes will not follow the usual course.
In assessing the varying state of preparations for the election that is less than two months away, based on recent public comments, Fox News found states warning that even the simplest things are now complicated.
“We should be prepared for this to be closer to an election week, as opposed to an Election Day,” Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson, a Democrat, said Sunday on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”
“The bottom line is we are not going to have the full results and a counting of all of our ballots on election night.”
The main culprit in causing concern is the coronavirus. Since states usually get vast numbers of senior citizens to work at the polls, and seniors are a population vulnerable to the virus, some states are having problems recruiting as they try to set up in-person voting.
“I’ve got a growing list of things that I’d normally do, but I can’t,” Forrest Lehman, elections director in central Pennsylvania’s Lycoming County, told The Associated Press.
“The thing that we’re thinking about more than anything right now is poll worker recruitment,” Republican Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose added on “Meet The Press.”
“It takes 35,000 Ohioans to run in-person Election Day. And so we’re doing all we can to recruit those poll workers,” he said.
LaRose also wants more done to promote voting by mail.
“I would love to see us provide postage-paid absentee ballots to every registered voter who requests one. Of course, that’s going to require a change in law by the state legislature or action by the State Controlling Board. And that’s exactly what I’m continuing to push them to do,” he said.
He added during a news conference Tuesday that more mail-in ballots could mean final results take days or weeks to be made public.
“The numbers will change between election night and the final certification. That’s not a sign of something nefarious. In fact, it’s the contrary. It’s a sign of the system working like it’s supposed to,” LaRose said, according to The Columbus Dispatch.
Mass mail-in voting, an expedient promoted in many states as an alternative to going the polls in person, comes with its own issues. For one, as the number of mail-in ballots rises, the time to count enough votes to declare a winner becomes extended.
Furthermore, because the process is labor-intensive and poll workers hired for the day are in short supply, the counting process is likely to rely on untrained, inexperienced and overworked elections workers.
Last month, Federal Election Commission Commissioner Ellen Weintraub said that patience will be a virtue this year.
“Let me just tell everybody, we’re all going to need to take a deep breath and be patient this year because there’s a substantial chance we are not going to know on election night what the results are,” Weintraub said on CNN’s “New Day.”
There’s “a substantial chance” that the results won’t be out on election night, says Federal Election Commission’s Ellen Weintraub. “If it takes a little bit longer to count all the votes accurately, that’s what we need to do in order to ensure that everyone’s vote counts.” pic.twitter.com/mNdwuzjvyt
— New Day (@NewDay) August 10, 2020
“Possibly for the presidency, but maybe for many other races that are important to people, and that’s OK. If it takes a little bit longer to count all the votes accurately, that’s what we need to do in order to ensure that everyone’s vote counts,” she said.
Adding to the stew of uncertainties are predictions from President Donald Trump that voter fraud will be a major part of the election due to the rise in mass mail-in voting, continued efforts by Russia and other nations to impact the election by sowing disinformation and dissension, and the political polarization of the nation that makes bipartisan collaboration on voting difficult.
An example of what local officials are facing came recently in Iowa after two judges agreed with the Trump campaign and threw out 64,000 absentee ballot requests they ruled were filled out improperly. Democrats are now trying to appeal that verdict to get the ballot requests back in play.
That’s only one of the at least 170 lawsuits filed that have to do with either changes to voting rules or the lack of changes to voting rules.
Once the voting ends, it will not get easier.
On election night, states and local election boards will be releasing counts of who cast ballots at the polls. The conventional wisdom is that Republicans are more likely to cast ballots in person than by mail. That means election night results — if this theory is true — could favor Republicans.
Given all of the uncertainties and claims about the election process, that could cause mistrust of results that emerge days later if, as the common wisdom so far suggests, Democratic voters end up being more likely to use mail-in ballots.
“We’ve certainly seen candidates trying to get out in front of a narrative and declare victory when all the votes have not been counted,” Benson told The New York Times.
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