Oct 20, 2020 - Politics & Policy

Election Assistance Commission: Spreading out voting is key to limiting congestion

Benjamin Hovland, chair of the bipartisan Election Assistance Commission, said at an Axios virtual event on Tuesday that "helping to spread out voting over all of the options" — whether it's mail-in ballots, early voting or in-person Election Day voting — is crucial to limiting congestion and making it as safe as possible for voters and poll workers.

The big picture: Hovland said that in this unprecedented election year, which is likely to see a record number of mail-in ballots due to the pandemic, it is important that Americans pick the option that's best and safest for them.

  • He stressed that mail-in voting is "very safe," but cautioned that "there are more pieces of the process involved" — including meeting certain deadlines and following ballot instructions carefully.
  • If voters haven't already requested a mail-in ballot with two weeks to go until the election, Hovland said "that may not be the best way — or you'll want to do that immediately."
  • Hovland also recommended submitting mail-in ballots as soon as possible, even if voters' particular state allows them to postmark their ballot by Election Day.

What he's saying: "About 25% of Americans vote by mail in a normal year, or in 2016. So we're going to see an increase probably closer to half, but that's all it really is — an increase in a trusted voting method that we've been using for years," Hovland told Axios' Margaret Talev.

  • "But then also we're seeing a surge in early in-person voting. Between those, we're already at around 30 million Americans that have already voted in the 2020 election, which is pretty remarkable."
  • "There were about 140 million people that voted for president in 2016. You're seeing voters very enthusiastic. We're likely to see records in a number of places. But you also see voters spreading out through those options that I talked about earlier. ... The biggest thing is really to find that way you're comfortable voting."

Go deeper: Read Axios' deep dive on race and voting in America

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