Sep 5, 2020 - Politics & Policy

Special report on virus-era voting: Prepare for unprecedented threats

Illustrated collage of a hand casting a ballot with a mailbox and laptop in the background
Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

With rare, if not unprecedented, agreement, President Trump, Joe Biden, intelligence officials and Big Tech CEOs are all warning of threats to accurate and trusted vote counts before, on and after election day. 

American elections face a triple threat in 2020: 

  • Foreign governmentsespecially Russia, China and Iran — are actively spreading misinformation via social platforms.
  • The coronavirus is forcing a big chunk of the country to vote by mail. Trump is warning mail-in voting is inherently corrupt and inaccurate, an assertion not backed by data or history.
  • It's highly likely it will take many states longer to count votes — especially mail-in and absentee ones. So the winner on election night might be the loser when everything is counted.

Why it matters: This is the era of misinformation and mistrust, so it's easy to war game scenarios where the election provokes civil unrest and dispute. So here are the facts you need to know — and share: 

  1. Don't expect a conclusive outcome election night. Be patient. And go into the night knowing it might take a week to count every vote.
  2. History shows mail-in voting is safe. A Brookings analysis found minuscule numbers of fraud cases, going back many years, in the five Western states that vote almost entirely by mail. Go deeper.
  3. Be extra cautious of your sources of news, especially on social platforms. Don't share news unless you're 100% confident in its accuracy and legitimacy. 
  4. Click here to understand how you can vote in your state.
  5. Vote.

The bottom line: This is an unprecedented election, in an unprecedented time, that will test a lot of our electoral institutions and norms.

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