March 26, 2020

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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.

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

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Alex Mahadevan is senior multimedia reporter with the MediaWise project. He most recently worked as a data journalist at the personal finance startup The Penny…
Alex Mahadevan

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