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Here's how states are dealing with mail-in voting ahead of the election

Photo by Matthew Modoono/Northeastern University

Will President Donald Trump’s attacks on mail-in ballots change Americans’ views about the process? At this week’s presidential debate, Trump made several unverified claims about the integrity of mail-in voting, saying mail carriers had been “selling the ballots,” and that ballots had been found “dumped in rivers.” Election experts push back, saying mail-in voting is historically reliable.

Research conducted over the summer suggest that many Americans entered the fall with support for the mail-in voting process. A survey led by David Lazer, distinguished professor of political science and computer and information science at Northeastern, and fellow researchers from Harvard, Rutgers, and Northwestern, found that 66 percent of Americans supported the right to vote by mail.

Earlier this year, a Pew Research Center study also found that support for voting by mail has sharply increased since the fall of 2018.

In response to the pandemic, many states have made changes to the way elections are held, and currently, most states have some provisions for mail-in voting. In a few, ballots are already mailed to all voters. Most allow absentee balloting in all circumstances; a few require voters to state an excuse for not voting in person.

Going into the year, 16 states did not allow anyone who wanted to vote absentee. But only two—Louisiana and Texas—kept that restriction in place for their primaries after the pandemic hit. And voters largely embraced the new method of voting. In every state except Colorado, Oregon and Washington (which already conducted elections by mail before the pandemic), a far greater share of people cast absentee ballots in 2020 than in the equivalent election in 2016.

Read on to see the state of mail-in voting and public opinion — and look out for new research from Lazer and his team about support for mail-in voting.

Overall support for voting by mail

How should voting by mail be conducted?

somewhat favor

strongly favor

somewhat oppose

strongly oppose

As states begin weighing options for conducting elections amid the coronavirus outbreak, there is broad support among the public for voting by mail and automatic voter registration.

Mail-in voting regulations by state

Ballots mailed

Absentee allowed for all

Excuse required

With the 2020 election in full swing, here are the rules for each state about where to send information. Most of the changes to mail-in voting are made by state and local officials who have the power to make adjustments during an emergency.

The United States Postal Service says it’s equipped to handle an expected surge in election mail. Ballot must be mailed in on time to count in the 2020 election.

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