Will COVID-19 change the way we vote come November?

Many states would need to change laws or ramp up their capabilities to move for predominantly-mail elections.

March 26, 2020

PolitiFact and MediaWise are teaming up to debunk misinformation about the coronavirus crisis. Coronavirus Facts is our daily media newsletter. To have it delivered to your inbox Monday-Friday, click here.

I am writing from St. Petersburg, Florida, where my county just enacted a “stay-in-place” order. Well, sort of.

My county isn’t ordering businesses closed, but plans to shut them down or fine them if an owner doesn’t enforce social distancing. Not that I’ve been out and about — I’ve been staying home with my wife, two dogs and three chickens.

We have been feeling cooped up. (Sorry, not sorry, for the bad joke.)

It may be only March, but what could mandates like this mean for voting in November?

People are already thinking about it. The coronavirus pandemic has forced more than a half dozen states to delay their Democratic primaries, with more states likely to follow. This has raised an urgent question: Could the pandemic still be dangerous enough in November that the general election will have to be held mostly or entirely by mail?

On the federal level, Sens. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., and Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., have introduced a measure that would greatly increase the role of voting by mail, including the allocation of federal money to purchase equipment and cover printing and mailing costs. The bill would also expand in-person early voting with the hopes of shrinking lines on Election Day.

Some election officials, including those who have advocated vote-by-mail for years, say that dramatically expanding mail balloting is feasible, given the amount of time between now and the November election. But making it happen would require aggressive action and governmental cooperation, experts say.

“Every state will have to think about the possibility that the November elections will be mostly by mail, or potentially all by mail,” said Ohio State University law professor Edward B. Foley.

Read more»

Be on the lookout for misleading COVID-19 tweets

We fact-checked a series of tweets about the coronavirus that included wild claims, such as drinking water every 15 minutes helps stem the virus. Get the facts»

Trump ad about Nancy Pelosi’s coronavirus bill is Mostly True

You might have heard about a Democrat stimulus proposal that included some controversial line items. We fact-checked a new ad from the Trump campaign. Check it out»

What does a fact-checker have to say about covering COVID-19?

MediaWise hosted a quarantine-friendly Q&A with Cristina Tardáguila of the International Fact-Checking Network about the coronavirus and misinformation. Watch the video»

Robbers are not posing as Census workers and COVID-19 testers to score

The Las Vegas Police Department says it hasn’t received any reporters of thieves robbing people at gunpoint while posing as coronavirus testers. Read the fact-check»

Click here to get this newsletter in your inbox every weekday.

Alex Mahadevan is a senior multimedia reporter at MediaWise. He can be reached at amahadevan@poynter.org or on Twitter at @AlexMahadevan. Follow MediaWise on TikTok.