States have begun reshaping election policies to expand access to mail-in voting.
Election officials in states with restrictive absentee requirements are looking for ways to allow as many voters as possible to use absentee ballots, a safer alternative to in-person voting in a global pandemic. If this crisis continues into November, however, some experts warn that a pivot to voting by mail could strain state resources and disenfranchise certain voters if not handled properly.
U.S. elections have been in flux since the outbreak of the novel coronavirus. Connecticut, Georgia, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland and Ohio all delayed their Democratic primaries. New York officials also are considering delaying that state’s April 28 primary.
But many states are taking their responses to COVID-19 further.
Voting by mail looks different in each state. While most states allow all voters to cast a mail-in ballot, 17 states restrict absentee voting to people who have disabilities, who are ill or who would be out of town on Election Day.
Several states have begun lifting restrictions on mail-in voting, opening the process to people who may have fears of exposure to the highly infectious virus.
Among them is Alabama, which postponed until July 14 its March 31 runoff in the Republican election for U.S. Senate. The July date would give officials time to process absentee ballots, and it’s the last day the state could hold an election without interrupting the November general election, according to Alabama Secretary of State John H. Merrill.