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Coronavirus and the Election

The Brennan Center is working to safeguard the 2020 election from the Covid-19 pandemic.

Published: June 26, 2020
A woman casts her ballot in a Democratic presidential primary election at the Hamilton High School in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, on April 7, 2020.
Kamil Krzaczynski


No Amer­ican should have to choose between their health and their right to vote. Yet our elec­tion system is woefully unpre­pared to run safe and fair elec­tions this Novem­ber in the midst of a pandemic.  It is crit­ical that we invest now to ensure that our state and local elec­tion systems make the adjust­ments and prepar­a­tions needed to run the 2020 elec­tions while protect­ing public health. 

The Bren­nan Center has put together compre­hens­ive plans to ensure the 2020 elec­tion is free, fair, safe, secure, and access­ible to all. At a broad level, the solu­tions include expand­ing online voter regis­tra­tion and other remote regis­tra­tion tools, ensur­ing that every Amer­ican can vote by a mail ballot if they want to, expand­ing early voting, and ensur­ing suffi­cient safe and sanit­ary options for in-person voting, a feature that is crit­ic­ally import­ant to communit­ies of color and others. 

The most urgent need now is for Congress to appro­pri­ate enough money so state and local elec­tion offi­cials can make the neces­sary changes and adjust­ments before Novem­ber. At the same time, states must take imme­di­ate steps to ensure that every voter can safely parti­cip­ate by mail or in person and to prevent wide­spread voter disen­fran­chise­ment and wide­spread elec­tion melt­downs at a scale much larger than seen so far in the primar­ies. They must adjust their rules to ensure that no voter is left behind — espe­cially in light of the dramatic racial dispar­it­ies in voting access seen in the primar­ies. And they must ensure that the elec­tion system is secure and resi­li­ent in the face of ongo­ing attacks by foreign adversar­ies. 

Here are the Bren­nan Center’s key resources about protect­ing the vote in 2020 from the coronavirus:

The Plan

How to Protect the 2020 Vote from the Coronavirus

The Bren­nan Center’s plan, which covers:

  • Polling place modi­fic­a­tion and prepar­a­tion
  • Expan­ded early voting
  • Making vote-by-mail a univer­sal option
  • Voter regis­tra­tion modi­fic­a­tion and prepar­a­tion, includ­ing online regis­tra­tion
  • Voter educa­tion
  • Manip­u­la­tion preven­tion

State Policies and Infra­struc­ture

Prepar­ing Your State for an Elec­tion Under Pandemic Condi­tions

50-state break­down of the policies states have and what they still need to best protect the Novem­ber 2020 elec­tion from Covid-19, such as online voter regis­tra­tion, in-person voting, mail-ballot voting, and the count­ing of mail ballots

Prepar­ing Elec­tion 2020 from Covid-19: Toolkits for Activ­ists Across the Nation

State-by-state toolkits to provide activ­ists with the inform­a­tion they need to fight back against the threat Covid-19 poses to the Novem­ber elec­tion

The Roadmap to the Offi­cial Count in an Unpre­ced­en­ted Elec­tion

Roadmap to the admin­is­trat­ive steps elec­tion offi­cials take to ensure that the vote count and final results are accur­ate

When Voting by Mail Switches to Voting in Person

Steps that voters and elec­tion offi­cials can take to keep the elec­tion running smoothly when voters switch between vote meth­ods

Mail Voting

The False Narrat­ive of Vote-by-Mail Fraud

Outlines secur­ity meas­ures in absentee and mail ballot­ing, and debunks claims of wide­spread fraud in voting by mail  

How Secur­ity Features Prevent Vote-by-Mail Miscon­duct

A detailed assess­ment of the numer­ous safe­guards in place that prevent voter fraud related to mail ballots

Mail Voting: What Has Changed in 2020

Changes made to elec­tion laws and proced­ures concern­ing mail voting during 2020 

Bipar­tisan Support for Expan­ded Mail Voting in 2020 Elec­tions

Examples of party lead­ers, elec­ted offi­cials, and elec­tion offi­cials from the major parties who advoc­ate for expan­ded mail voting in the face of the pandemic 

Amer­ic­ans of All Stripes Want a Mail Ballot Option

Public opin­ion poll show­ing that a major­ity of Amer­ic­ans of both parties support a univer­sal vote-by-mail option 

Who’s Request­ing Mail Ballots in Geor­gi­a’s Upcom­ing Primary?

Analysis show­ing signi­fic­ant racial, age, and party dispar­it­ies in absentee ballot requests processed in Geor­gia for the June primary 

Voter Purges in an Increas­ingly Vote-by-Mail World

Guidelines for elec­tion offi­cials to ensure that purges of voter rolls don’t disen­fran­chise eligible voters, espe­cially in light of the increased reli­ance on mail voting

Covid-19 Should Be a Legit­im­ate ‘Excuse’ to Vote by Mail

In the 16 states that require an excuse to vote by mail, fear of the coronavirus should become an accept­able reason for receiv­ing a mail ballot for the Novem­ber elec­tion

Polling Places

Guidelines for Healthy In-Person Voting

A detailed guide to minim­ize the risk of trans­mit­ting Covid-19 at polls this Novem­ber

Voters Should Not Be Intim­id­ated

An explainer of the strict limits on what the milit­ary, law enforce­ment, and poll watch­ers can do at the polls

Limits on Observ­ers and Chal­lengers at the Polls

A guide to the numer­ous state laws on poll watch­ers that control who they are and what they can do

Voters Need Safe and Sanit­ary In-Person Voting Options

Provides a snap­shot of the Amer­ic­ans who can’t vote by mail and urges states to offer mean­ing­ful access to safe polling loca­tions 

Wait­ing to Vote

Study show­ing Black and Latino voters across the coun­try waited longer to vote in 2018 than white voters

Did Consol­id­at­ing Polling Places in Milwau­kee Depress Turnout?

Analysis of voter turnout in Milwau­kee during the Wiscon­sin primary shows that having fewer polling places in the city reduced over­all turnout by 8.6 percent (compared to the 2016 primary) and turnout of Black voters by 10.2 percent

Changes in Elec­tion Admin­is­tra­tion and the Cost

Ensur­ing Safe Elec­tions

Study estim­at­ing the costs of admin­is­ter­ing Covid-19-safe elec­tions in 2020 in each of five states (Geor­gia, Michigan, Missouri, Ohio, and Pennsylvania), co-authored by the R Street Insti­tute, the Alli­ance for Secur­ing Demo­cracy, and the Univer­sity of Pitt­s­burgh Insti­tute for Cyber Law, Policy, and Secur­ity 

What Federal Money Can Still Achieve This Elec­tion Season

Why Congress still can and should provide addi­tional fund­ing to state and local elec­tion offi­cials ahead of Novem­ber

Estim­ated Costs of Covid-19 Elec­tion Resi­li­ency Meas­ures

Prelim­in­ary cost estim­ates for adapt­ing the coun­try’s voting systems and prac­tices to protect the 2020 elec­tions from the Covid-19 pandemic 

Prepar­ing for Elec­tion Day: Dead­lines for Running a Safe Elec­tion

Immin­ent dead­lines that elec­tion offi­cials must meet in order to purchase, acquire, and test equip­ment and supplies neces­sary run a safe and secure elec­tion in Novem­ber

Elec­tion Offi­cials, National Secur­ity Experts, and Busi­ness Lead­ers’ Support Federal Fund­ing for Elec­tions

Letters to Congress and op-eds by elec­tion offi­cials, public health and national secur­ity experts, and busi­ness lead­ers across the coun­try asking for more federal fund­ing to cover coronavirus-related elec­tion expenses

How Busi­nesses Can Support a Safe, Access­ible, and Secure Elec­tion

A guide to how the busi­ness community can lever­age its resources and influ­ences to help ensure elec­tion offi­cials are prepared for Novem­ber and that voters have access to safe voting options

Elec­tion Secur­ity

Our Elec­tion System Is Resi­li­ent — but Still Has Room for Improve­ment

What states have done and what more they can do to make safe­guards that protect against cyber­at­tacks and tech­nical prob­lems more secure ahead of Novem­ber

Prepar­ing for Cyber­at­tacks and Tech­nical Prob­lems During the Pandemic: A Guide for Elec­tion Offi­cials

Details steps elec­tion offi­cials must take to ensure safe and secure elec­tions in the midst of a pandemic

To Avoid an Elec­tion Melt­down, Offi­cials Must Stock­pile Backup Paper Ballots

Guidelines for elec­tion offi­cials on suffi­cient backup paper ballot stock­piles

Why Online Voting Isn’t the Answer to Running Elec­tions During Covid-19

Explains why voting should not be done online — it is not secure enough


Trump Targets Michigan to Push His Latest Lie on Imagined Mail-in Voting Fraud

Voting by mail is an essen­tial option for a safe and fair elec­tion during Covid-19, but the pres­id­ent insists on lies.

10 Voter Fraud Lies Debunked

We debunk 10 of the most egre­gious voter fraud claims of the past five years.

Dirty Tricks: Eight False­hoods that Could Under­mine the 2020 Elec­tion

Here are eight lies, miscon­cep­tions, and false argu­ments that we think voters will have to contend with in 2020.

Other resources