Video Badger Talks: Mail-in voting during the pandemic
In this week’s Badger Talks, Barry Burden joins us to talk about how the pandemic’s big push for mail-in voting is likely to affect the election.
Cities and states are greatly expanding their mail-in voting in hopes of avoiding the spread of COVID-19 at polling stations. But most states, and most voters, are not used to this level of mail-in voting. So everyone is adapting, says Burden, professor of political science and director of the Elections Research Center at UW–Madison.
Each state handles mail-in voting differently, but in each case, a surge in mail-in votes requires a different allocation of resources than a traditional election. Polling stations still have to be staffed all while a large number of mail-in votes have to be opened and processed. “It’s more complicated than it seems, I think, to the voter who’s requesting the ballot,” Burden says.
Each state also has their own method of checking and securing mail-in votes. They might require picture identification before they mail out a ballot, as Wisconsin does. Or states may check the voter’s signature against one they have on file, or require that a witness affirms that the voter is who they say they are.
All of these changes mean that voters, and politicians, will probably need to learn a new skill: patience. As we’ve seen in some statewide elections and primaries during the pandemic, large numbers of mail-in votes can take a long time to process. So when it comes to the general election in November, Americans might not receive the instant gratification they’re used to, especially in close races.