Conducting Elections During the Pandemic

Maria Carnovale
Jun 26 2020


The COVID-19 pandemic presents major challenges for US elections. Measures necessary to protect the public and prevent the spread of the virus, like shelter-in-place orders, quarantine and self-isolation, as well as fear of infection will keep many Americans away from polling places. Those who choose to or need to vote in-person will have to navigate lines and indoor voting locations that place people in close proximity, and interact with high-touch surfaces. Poll workers, who are traditionally older and therefore more at risk, are now in short supply.

The Author

Maria Carnovale, PhD

Lead Policy Analyst @

To ensure that national elections are able to proceed and all those who wish to vote may exercise that right, state and local election officials should:

  • Consider whether they are able to sufficiently expand and adjust vote-by-mail capabilities to handle most ballots by mail by November, and if they plan to, start that work now;
  • Roll out non-partisan voter education programs to provide clear guidance on vote-by-mail options, including phone support, mailers, and online content that provide remote help and step-by-step instructions for marking mail-in ballots;
  • Adjust in-person voting by expanding early voting and election day voting hours; distributing personal protection equipment (PPE) to poll workers; adding to the roster of existing polling locations to make up for lost capacity due to the need for social distancing measures; creating well marked, safe, well ventilated locations for lines that enable physical distancing; and implementing measures that allow physical distancing while voting.



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