United States Election Gets Upended By COVID-19

United States

United States Election Gets Upended By COVID-19

Amid the rising tension over coronavirus, another kind of concern is quietly growing in the United States: how to go ahead with the approaching presidential election.

First and foremost: Is it possible that the Nov. 3 election itself could be canceled and that Donald Trump may extend his own presidency in the face of a national emergency?

Democratic election lawyer, Marc Elias, said: “The answer is no.” 

“Federal law sets the date of the general election … and absent an act of Congress, the date won’t change. A state can’t change it. Donald Trump can’t change it.”

But he also points out that there are several challenges nonetheless.

He further adds, after all, who would like to stand in line on Election Day with several other voters — any one of which could be infected by the virus? Many people may choose to stay home for their safety and not vote at all.

Can We Isolate Polling Stations?

Typically, polling stations are run by volunteers who are usually civic-minded retirees. But with warnings for everwhere, especially seniors, to avoid crowds, who will volunteer?

“Would you do that right now?” asked Elias. “With COVID, would you be the person who is, you know, two feet away, checking people’s I.D., swapping driver’s licenses back and forth, or handing people ballots?”

If the election goes ahead as planned, voters might not line up to cast their ballots as they did in Woodstock, N.H., in 2016. If they can’t vote remotely, they may opt to stay home. 

One scenario could be fewer polling stations everywhere, with resulting reduced access for voters. Particularly in states where margins are historically tight, the potential looms for legal challenges on behalf of those who wished to vote but were stopped from doing so.

One of the most suggested answers is to more broadly use the U.S. Postal Service. But even that has its challenges.  

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