Less than a month away from Election Day, there’s a lot of anxiety hanging over voters’ heads: an unprecedented number of people voting by mail, the coronavirus pandemic and President Trump sowing seeds of doubt over the integrity of the election.
WHYY political reporter Katie Meyer walks us through a practical guide to ease the mind of a worried voter: how to properly fill out and send in a mail in ballot (make sure it isn’t naked!), what’s up with Philly’s satellite election offices, the security of in-person voting and more.
Check out WHYY’s full 2020 election coverage here — including handy guides on key voting deadlines, how to vote in person safely, how to be a poll worker and what you need to know about your voting rights.
On how worried voters should be on a 1-10 scale if they haven’t gotten their mail-in ballots yet
Well, I have good news for you. I would say that only a one or a two at this point, depending on your baseline level of worry. I would give it a couple of days. The Department of State has a website where you can track your ballot. So, for instance, if it says it was delivered to you and you don’t have it, that’s a sign that maybe something has gone wrong. Maybe it went to the wrong house, maybe the person in the apartment next to you picked it up. Whatever the case may be, if you get your mail-in ballot and you don’t want to risk it getting back to your county election office too late in the mail, you can go to the county election office in person and hand it in. A lot of counties have drop boxes and you can look on their web sites to see those locations … In Philly, we have satellite election offices where you can actually go and request a ballot if you haven’t yet and fill it out and submit it all in one place.
On whether in-person voting is safer than voting by mail
I think that depends on what you mean by safer. Certainly, we are still in a pandemic. And so any places where people are going to be gathering indoors carries some risk. Philly has relatively new voting machines, but those were used in the primary election pretty smoothly so that should not be an issue. I think the only lingering issue with physical in-person voting that has come up recently is there was a theft from the warehouse where voting machines and other equipment is stored. Somebody stole a laptop and some memory sticks that are used on the machines. Obviously, the commissioners have been asked about it … Our reporter, Max Marin with Billy Penn did go over and check out the warehouse the other day and he was able to walk right in through an unlocked door, which very clearly didn’t look great for the city. Now they have followed up and … they have now said they’re going to increase security, they’re going to review their protocols and make sure something like this doesn’t happen again.
On what she says to people who are worried the election won’t go smoothly
I think certainly there is a perception, and it’s not totally wrong, that a lot is different this election than most elections, just the proliferation of mail-in balloting, that kind of thing. We certainly have seen political figures, the president trying to poke holes in the process. I think that’s very fair to say. For instance, Trump has alluded to in the past and has said explicitly that there are circumstances under which he probably would not accept whatever the election result is, if he loses. And certainly this has already been a very litigious process and I wouldn’t be shocked if that continued as votes are counted and after votes are counted.
So all that said, though, I think the comforting thing that people should know is that this election is [still] in a lot of ways running like many, many other elections have in the past. And the election is not run by faceless bureaucrats in Washington, D.C. These are run by counties, by municipalities. They are people you know, people who are in your community who are in charge of these things. And also there are rules in place and longstanding systems to make sure those rules are followed.