Florida Among States that Must Do More to Prepare for Elections During Coronavirus Pandemic, CAP Analysis Shows

Author  Sam Hananel

Washington, D.C. – After the chaos and confusion surrounding the Wisconsin primary, an analysis from the Center for American Progress finds that 40 states plus the District of Columbia have election systems that are not much better or are even worse positioned than Wisconsin when it comes to responding to a pandemic.

Lack of infrastructure to handle massive numbers of mail-in ballots is a key problem. In more than half the states and the District of Columbia, for example, absentee ballots comprised less than 10 percent of all votes cast in 2016.

While Florida had 28 percent of its voters mail in ballots in 2016, the state needs to do more to beef up infrastructure if this number goes up dramatically. To prepare for November, Florida also must adopt same day voter registration, which is a core policy all states must have to ensure American citizens can register to vote even if they miss traditional deadlines because they are ill, serving as caregivers, or otherwise engrossed in the pandemic.

Without major upgrades to election infrastructure, Florida and other states could be overwhelmed in November. This includes increasing state and local capacity for sending, receiving, and counting absentee ballots in preparation for unprecedented reliance on mail-based voting.

Most states lack at least one or more vital policies including no-excuse absentee voting, online and same day registration, and/or early voting. For states lacking infrastructure capabilities and baseline policies, Wisconsin’s primary debacle will pale in comparison to what transpires within their borders.

“Wisconsin’s primary shows that even in states doing many things right, election processes can break down easily in the midst of a pandemic,” said Danielle Root, associate director of voting rights and access to justice at CAP. “Unless lawmakers at state and federal levels take immediate action to fortify election systems, the turmoil and potentially deadly consequences observed in Wisconsin will likely repeat themselves in states across the country.”

The analysis finds that only six states (California, Colorado, Hawaii, Iowa, Utah, Washington) have both the infrastructure and core election policies in place that leave them well-positioned to respond to COVID-19. Another three states (Arizona, Montana, and Oregon) are also relatively well-situated, as they have most of the necessary policies and infrastructure to support mass reliance on vote by mail.

Unfortunately, many states can’t afford to make the extensive upgrades needed to safeguard the democratic process and public health. To ensure American elections are carried out safely and effectively, Congress should allocate $4 billion to states now so that they can immediately get to work and bolster their election systems against the pandemic.

Read the analysis: “Wisconsin Primary Shows Why States Must Prepare Their Elections for the Coronavirus” by Danielle Root.

To find the latest CAP resources on the coronavirus, visit our coronavirus resource page.

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