Tuesday, 27 Oct 2020

How to vote: From in-person to absentee – The three ways to vote in US election 2020

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Voting options seem much broader in the US this year, as COVID-19 has forced authorities to adapt. Several avenues which already existed for US voters have taken on renewed importance this year, as they may end up the only option for some people. One of these methods has become the subject of aggressive rumours, spread notably by President Donald Trump himself.

In-person voting

The classic method of voting will seem very different for most people in the US this year.

Americans need to venture down to their local polling place to cast their ballot on the day, which they can find via their state or territorial election office.

Although they can still vote in person, polling station layouts, locations or procedures may differ due to COVID-19.

Early voting

Most states and Washington DC allow early voting, in which people cast their ballot in person but before Election Day.

Early voting takes place at centralised locations such as a City Hall or a local board of elections.

In 2020, some states have elected to draft other venues such as sports arenas to accommodate increased numbers of early voters.

Mail-in voting

Every state in the US has provisions for mail-in voting, which has expanded this year.

To vote by mail, people need to request a ballot to their home, which they then fill out and drop into a ballot box.

Not everyone will have the chance to vote by mail, as most states only allow it in select circumstances.

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The rules ultimately vary by states, however, as they independently set ballot return dates and ballot box locations.

Not every state will have a ballot box, however, and some may not make them readily accessible.

Mail-in voting has attracted the ire of Donald Trump this year, as the President has touted “high levels” of fraud associated with the option.

He claimed the process – which he uses himself – would allow foreign powers to influence the election, and has regularly stated the results this year would end up incorrect due to mail-in votes.

However, several researchers and high-ranking individuals have thoroughly discredited his claims.

Ellen Weintraub, commissioner of the Federal Election Commission, said there is “simply no basis” for the “conspiracy theory”.

Analysis which included every possible voting method found less than trace levels of election fraud.

A 2017 study by the Brennan Center for Justice found voter fraud rates lie between 0.00004 and 0.0009 percent.

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