Washington Secretary of State Kim Wyman, who oversaw some of the state's earliest all-mail elections, gave "Axios on HBO" an inside look at how it works as states prepare for record levels of vote-by-mail returns ahead of November.

Why it matters: "Election officials know that democracy is really resting in our hands," said Wyman, "and we have to inspire confidence in our harshest critics, whether they are in the living room or in the White House."

  • Most states have little experience with widespread mail-in absentee voting. They're looking for advice from Washington officials who have held all-mail elections since 2011.
  • Meanwhile, President Trump continues to rail against mail-in voting, claiming without evidence that it will lead to widespread voting fraud.
  • Election workers follow stringent processes to ensure ballots are counted accurately and are trained to watch for signs of fraud.

How it works: The budgeting for election processes and equipment in Washington state begins years in advance. Machines and election workers in Seattle scan and analyze ballots to verify that they have been cast by real, living voters.

  • Workers are trained to spot differences between a voter's signature on a ballot and other signatures on file, such as a driver's license or a voter registration form.
  • A machine opens ballot envelopes to protect voter privacy — preventing election workers from connecting voters to their vote.
  • Ballots with unclear check marks, light markings or atypical marks are analyzed to ensure they're counted the way the voters intended.

The bottom line: Faith in the 2020 election outcome will rely heavily on local and state election officials' ability to successfully pull off an election like none other. "If you think back to 2016, even though people didn't like the results, they believed it was a fair election. It's going to be even harder to do that this year," Wyman said.

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Updated Oct 20, 2020 - Axios Events

Watch: A conversation on America's voting barriers

On Tuesday, October 23, Axios' Sara Kehaulani Goo, Margaret Talev, and Alexi McCammond hosted a virtual event on barriers to voting access across the country, featuring Southwest Voter Registration Education Project President Lydia Camarillo, U.S. Election Assistance Commission Chairman Benjamin Hovland, Florida Rights Restoration Coalition President Desmond Meade and "The West Wing" actors Janel Moloney and Richard Schiff.

Benjamin Hovland unpacked how to vote safely during this unprecedented year and highlighted the uptick in mail-in ballots and early voting.

  • On a notable increase in early ballots being cast: "We're seeing a surge in early in-person voting...We're already at around 30 million Americans that have already voted in the 2020 election, which is pretty remarkable."
  • On the impact of the pandemic on mail-in ballots: "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."

Lydia Camarillo discussed the importance of the Latino electorate in American elections.

  • The impact on November's election: "I think that the Latino electorate can be the deciding factor in this election — in partnership with other groups like the Black community, the Muslim community, Asian American community and progressives. They will decide the election."

Desmond Meade, who helped lead the 2018 fight for Amendment 4 in Florida, unpacked the expansion of voting rights and Florida's impact on similar state-level policy changes across the country.

  • On restoring felon rights: "This thing has caught on like a wildfire. All across this country, people are really standing up. Because America is a nation of second chances. And it's showing up right now in a major way."

Janel Moloney and Richard Schiff discussed the recent "The West Wing" episode on HBO Max and the experience of reuniting as an ensemble cast.

  • Richard Schiff on the meaning of the episode: "It's a rare thing in this day and age around the world to have the privilege to vote and the right to vote. And we should be very careful to not let it be extinguished and that this episode addresses that."

Axios Vice President of Event Kristin Burkhalter hosted a View from the Top segment with Lyft Head of Policy Engagement and Strategic Partnerships Heather Foster who discussed how transportation plays a critical role in voting access.

  • "We took a look at the statistics that came out of 2016, and it was estimated at the time that more than 15 million eligible voters did not go to the polls because they lacked a way to get there."

This event was the first in a yearlong series called Hard Truths, where we'll be discussing the wide ranging impact of systemic racism in America. Read our deep dive on race and voting here.

Thank you Lyft for sponsoring this event.

Trump casts ballot in Florida ahead of massive campaign weekend

President Trump. Photo: Mandel Ngan/AFP via Getty Images

President Trump cast his ballot in Florida on Saturday ahead of a jam-packed weekend of campaigning just 10 days ahead of the general election.

The big picture: Trump registered as a Florida voter in 2018, citing his Mar-a-Lago residence. His in-person vote comes amid a massive uptick in mail-in voting due to the coronavirus pandemic, but Trump argues mail-in voting is typically unsafe and ripe for fraud.

Oct 24, 2020 - Politics & Policy

Texas Supreme Court stays order blocking limits on ballot drop-off sites

A sign is seen at drive-through mail ballot drop off site at NRG Stadium in Houston. Photo: Go Nakamura/Getty Images

The Texas Supreme Court on Saturday temporarily stayed an order by the lower court that blocked Gov. Greg Abbott's limits on drop-off locations for mail-in ballots.

Why it matters: The move means voters will continue to be restricted to a single drop-off location per county for now. The state's Supreme Court gave both sides until Monday at 5 p.m. CDT to file responses as it considers whether to take up the issue. By then, there will be just over one week until the election.