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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.

Go deeper

Trump cancels Pennsylvania trip for GOP hearing on voter fraud claims

President Trumpat the White House on Tuesday. Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

President Trump on Wednesday canceled his trip to Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, where he was scheduled to join his personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani for a Republican-led state Senate Majority Policy Committee hearing on alleged election irregularities.

Driving the news: The cancellation comes after Giuliani was exposed to a second person who tested positive for the coronavirus. It's unclear if that's the reason the trip was cancelled.

Paul Ryan calls on Trump to concede race and end lawsuits

Paul Ryan and Joe Biden after the vice presidential debate in 2012. Photo: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Former House Speaker Paul Ryan (R) on Tuesday called on President Trump to concede the election to President-elect Biden and "embrace the transfer of power," in an address at a financial conference first reported by Politico.

Why it matters: Trump has continued to deny that he lost the election, despite his administration granting so-called "ascertainment" on Monday, allowing the transition to formally begin.

47 mins ago - Politics & Policy

Senate Democrats settling on 25% corporate tax rate

Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.). Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

The universe of Democratic senators concerned about raising the corporate tax rate to 28% is broader than Sen. Joe Manchin, and the rate will likely land at 25%, parties close to the discussion tell Axios.

Why it matters: While increasing the rate from 21% to 25% would raise about $600 billion over 15 years, it would leave President Biden well short of paying for his proposed $2.25 trillion, eight-year infrastructure package.