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Preparing Your State for an Election Under Pandemic Conditions

Here’s a 50-state breakdown of what policies states already have and still need in order to best protect the November 2020 election from the Covid-19 pandemic.

Last Updated: February 1, 2021
Published: March 24, 2020
Alex Adelman/Getty
Alex Adelman/Getty

Note: The charts below reflect policies in place for the November 2020 general election. Some policies were enacted on a temporary or emergency basis and are no longer in effect.

This is part of the Brennan Center’s response to the coronavirus.

The Brennan Center has laid out steps election administrators should undertake to ensure that voting is accessible, safe, and secure in the face of the Covid-19 pandemic. The tables below show where states currently stand on some of our key recommendations concerning:

Voters and advocates can assess how their state stacks up and where change is needed. For those who want a more general overview of how prepared your state is for the November election, please consult the first table directly below.

For more information on where targeted advocacy can make the biggest impact in your state, check out your state’s specific toolkit in the Brennan Center’s Toolkits for Activists Across the Nation.

Voter Registration

Covid-19 may severely disrupt Americans’ ability to register to vote and elections officials’ capacity to process voter registration applications. Quarantines and social distancing measures will likely reduce access to government offices that provide voter registration services and could lead to postal service disruptions, particularly in the critical weeks leading up to voter registration deadlines, when most registrations typically occur. The table below outlines voter registration deadlines, the existence of and access to online voter registration, and whether states allow voters to register in-person past the deadline for the November election.

In-Person Voting

Safe and healthy polling places will be a critical part of our election infrastructure in November. People without internet and mail access, those who need language assistance to vote, and people with disabilities who rely on voting machines to cast a private and independent ballot will be disenfranchised if polling places are closed. To ensure that everyone can vote, jurisdictions should do their best to keep polling places open and safe for voters and election workers alike, expand early voting, and guard against long lines and mass confusion by adding vote centers that can serve a variety of voter needs. The table below identifies states that currently offer early voting and vote centers for general elections.

Requesting and Returning Vote-by-Mail Ballots

A mail-ballot option should be extended to all voters this November to minimize voters’ exposure to Covid-19 and reduce lines and crowds at the polls. Options for requesting, receiving, and returning mail ballots should be expanded while maintaining the security of the voting system. The table below includes which states allow all voters to cast a mail ballot as well as which states allow voters to request a mail ballot online, the state deadline for requesting a mail ballot, and whether states have burdensome ID or witness requirements.

Counting Vote-by-Mail Ballots

Nationwide, over 430,000 mail ballots were rejected in 2018 because of mail delays, minor technical defects, and voter errors in completing a mail ballot, among other reasons. Rejected ballots hit underrepresented communities hardest. In some states, Black, Latino, Asian, and other minorities have had their mail ballots rejected at much higher rates than white voters. The table below includes which states currently accept ballots that were cast on time but arrived late, the rules around fixing signature problems, and the percentage of cast ballots that were submitted through the mail in the state in 2018.