Because of the corona pandemic, more US citizens are voting by mail this year than ever before. President Trump has been trying to discredit postal voting for months. A legal nightmare looms after November 3rd.
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In the US presidential election, because of the corona pandemic, a particularly large number of citizens are voting by post this year – that brings many problems. Answers to the most important questions:
What is the importance of postal voting?
Postal votes are increasing massively this year due to the corona pandemic: Many voters are sending their ballot papers by post out of fear of infection in the election office. Around 33 million people voted in the 2016 presidential election, which corresponds to around one in four votes cast. This year, the number of postal voters could double or even triple because of the corona pandemic.
According to the US Elections Project at the University of Florida, more than 90 million voters have applied for postal votes this year. According to this, more than 46 million completed ballot papers have already been received by the electoral authorities. Supporters of the Democratic Party of candidate Joe Biden want to vote by mail far more often than supporters of the Republicans of President Donald Trump.
What difficulties are there?
The increase in postal votes is a huge logistical challenge. The election organizers have to send out many more ballots on time and count them later than usual. Delays could mean that millions of votes are ignored. In the summer, allegations were made against President Donald Trump that he was deliberately trying to weaken the post in order to torpedo the postal elections.
Postal votes are error-prone even in normal years. Ballot papers can be rejected because of minor formal errors – for example using the wrong envelope. Another problem: counting postal votes is particularly time-consuming. Counting all votes could take days or weeks in some states.
While many states require postal voting forms to arrive at the polling station by November 3rd at the latest, in other states a postmark from election day is sufficient. In important Pennsylvania, for example, absentee ballots are considered even if they are received up to three days after election day. A lawsuit by Trump’s Republicans, however, recently failed in the US Supreme Court. In contrast, the Supreme Court on Monday rejected an extension of the deadline in the contested state of Wisconsin.
Is there a threat of election fraud on a large scale?
Trump has been campaigning against postal votes for months and claims that he should be deprived of re-election through massive election fraud. Authorities and experts strongly disagree: fraud in postal votes is extremely rare. Trump-appointed FBI chief Chris Wray made it clear in the US Congress in September that there has never been a large-scale national election fraud in US history.
There are always mistakes. Election agencies in the states of Ohio and New York sent out tens of thousands of incorrect ballot papers. But that is not election fraud.
What does postal voting mean for election night?
Usually the future US president is determined on election night. This year it could turn out differently because of the large number of postal votes. Especially with tight races in key countries, it could take a while until the winner is determined. So patience is required from the media and voters. But Trump has repeatedly called for the election result to be known on election evening.
Observers believe one scenario in particular is possible: Because a particularly large number of Democratic voters vote by post and do not want to go to the polling office on November 3, post-election surveys could initially indicate a Trump victory. However, this could be reversed after all postal ballot papers have been counted. Such a Biden victory in turn is likely to be used by Trump as an occasion for new fraud allegations.
Is a legal nightmare looming?
In the run-up to November 3, there were hundreds of complaints about postal votes. Trump’s Republicans have gone to court in many places to take action against the corona-related expansion. After election day, there should be another wave of lawsuits. The Republicans, but also the Democrats, could in countless individual cases question the election result because of minor technical issues.
The outcome of the election could ultimately end up before the Supreme Court, which ruled the presidential election between George W. Bush and Al Gore 20 years ago. Since the appointment of Constitutional Judge Amy Coney Barrett, Conservative Supreme Court justices have had a clear six-to-three majority – a strategic advantage for Trump.