The Election’s Known Unknowns

President Trump’s coronavirus diagnosis has raised a new set of questions about election contingencies in a year in which the virus has already changed how many Americans plan to vote and how soon they can expect a result.

On Monday, the bipartisan National Task Force on Election Crises held its second in a series of reporter briefings on COVID-19 and the 2020 Election, including what Trump’s diagnosis could mean for the election process–and what it doesn’t. Experts including the University of Minnesota’s Michael Osterholm, Election Group’s Jennifer Morrell and Florida State University College of Law’s Michael T. Morley answered questions on everything from rules of succession (complicated) to the likelihood of Election Day moving (technically possible but very unlikely). 

The key takeaways:

  • Vote now. Send in your absentee ballot as soon as you can, or vote early. Experts anticipate an unprecedented number of absentee ballots moving through the Postal Service could see substantial processing delays and potentially post-election litigation.
  • Each state has its own election rules and regulations when it comes to contingencies. “We typically think of it as one national election, but in fact it’s really 51 separate elections for 51 different slates of electors,” said Morley. In the event a candidate were to die before Election Day, for example, the process for changing the ballot varies by state, and depends on when it happens. But ultimately, “The system is built to be able to deal with these types of issues and to the extent that there are state level variations or state level gaps, either state legislatures or courts are available to try to plug them.”
  • The younger the poll workers, the better. Typically, election judges are older, retired individuals. Given their risk factors for COVID-19, said Osterholm, there’s no better time to begin recruiting younger election judges and poll workers.

GPG will be hosting a Virtual Coffee and Conversation briefing Friday at noon ET with the task force on how major brands, corporations and everyday Americans can prepare for uncertainty in November and beyond. You can RSVP to join here.