So far this primary season, the coronavirus pandemic has forced Louisiana, Georgia, Maryland, Kentucky and Ohio to postpone their primaries until later in the spring, while reportedly contributing to lower than average turnout in Tuesday’s primaries in Illinois and Florida. It has also inspired some lawmakers and activists to call for much broader use of mail-in voting, a way for Americans to cast their ballots despite the lockdowns, quarantines and limitations on crowds taking hold across the country.
But making such a major voting change so quickly would not be so easy. In some states, it could require changes to laws. Some lawmakers worry that if done hastily, the change could open the door to voter fraud. Then there are the costs related to mailing, tracking and processing ballots in new ways.
“Rolling something as complex as this out at large-scale introduces thousands of small problems — some of which are security problems, some of which are reliability problems, some of which are resource-management problems — that only become apparent when you do it,” said Matt Blaze, an election security expert and computer science professor at Georgetown Law School. “Which is why changing anything right before a high-stakes election carries risks.”
But advocates of expanded mail-in voting say the U.S. may have little choice, especially with some health experts estimating the crisis could last through the fall. The alternative, they say, is that many Americans might otherwise be unable to vote at all.