The Daily - Is the U.S. Ready to Vote by Mail?

The United States is preparing to hold its first ever socially distant presidential election. But will it actually work?Guest: Reid J. Epstein, who covers campaigns and elections for The New York Times. For more information on today’s episode, visit nytimes.com/thedaily Background reading: President Trump’s suggestion that the Nov. 3 vote could be delayed — something he cannot do on his own — drew unusually firm Republican resistance and signaled worry about his re-election bid.Georgia

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Content Keywords: Georgia mail ballot
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New York time I'm like old borrow. This is a daily.

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today

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the United States is preparing to hold its first socially distant presidential election in history.

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Will it actually work my calling we def stand on what we've learned from the very different experience of two states.

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It's Tuesday, August 4th.

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So it is precisely three months to the day until election day. And from where you can tell given the state of the pandemic will voting on November 3rd at all resemble the way we have cast ballots in the past.

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for a lot of us know

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what idea that people have that they wake up the morning of election day and go to the middle school or a church or something nearby and wait in line for a few minutes and vote for a lot of assets to be replaced with opening your mailbox. And seeing about that comes from your local Board of Elections and sitting down at the kitchen table and figuring out who's running for what I'm looking for what they stand for and filling in the ovals as you see fit and then when you're done with that, you'll either put it back in the mailbox or you'll drop it off in about collection box and that will be how people vote and it will take place over a matter of weeks and not just crammed in on Election Day.

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I just be clear what you're describing is mail-in voting and I want to make sure I understand exactly what that is because I think for a lot of people there is a familiarity with absentee voting and is that different minutes? It's basically the same plot of us have received an absentee ballot if we're traveling for work or at school and not at home, but mail-in voting is on a mass scale of absentee voting that we're going to see for this election.

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Into what has been our experience in the United States with mail-in voting up to this point. It's very different depending on where you live. There are five states that have been conducting elections entirely by mail, Washington, Oregon Hawaii, Utah and Colorado where they send balance to every registered voter and people return them either to the mail or in drop boxes. And so if you live in one of those places this year's election will look pretty normal to you. You'll get your ballot. If you live in Washington state, you'll get a little booklet which will be, you know, 80 to 100 pages with testimonials from everyone who's running for every office on the ballot dog catcher the president of the United States. They have a chance to read and study.

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And you'll fill it out at your leisure. And as long as you have a returned by whatever the local deadline is your vocal count how well does mail-in voting work in those five days from anybody to talk to in those States from both parties. It has increased turn out particularly among demographics of people were least likely to vote. Otherwise, I had a conversation last week with the Republican state party chairman and Utah who said that you Tom's have been voting by mail for over a decade and that they have effective safeguards and procedures in place to keep the voting on The up-and-up and that they don't expect any problems there with mail voting this fall because they haven't had any in the past 2 million voting is smooth and the states that have it and of course many other states have some level of stress of absentee ballots, which would seem to suggest there's a pretty straightforward.

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To taking mail-in voting Nationwide for the entire country in 2020. You might think that but it's been proven to not be that simple in the best example of where things have gotten messy was in, Georgia.

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Shortest presidential primary was supposed to be back in March and the couple weeks before it was held the Secretary of State or republican in Brad raffensperger postponed it to May and then a couple weeks before the May primary. Everything was postponed to June because they didn't quite know what to do with pandemic and after the second postponement. It was clear that they needed to do something to alleviate what the expected to be a crush of people voting on their primary day.

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And so they sent absentee ballot application forms to nearly seven million active registered voters in Georgia in an effort to get people to vote by mail and not come into either early voting centers or a flush Facebook sites applications for ballast, but not balance themselves. That's right. How many people Altima has sought of ballot with these applications in Georgia about a million and a half people returned the ballot applications from the state to their County Board of Elections almost all those people received about but there were still tens of thousands of people who requested ballast and didn't receive them either. It didn't show up or shut up after the election or it showed up a malfunctioning Ballot or a bad return envelope or some way that it couldn't be returned to properly one example, that is Stacy a

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Who was the Democratic party nominee for governor in 2018 in May when there was some delay in receiving it, but when it finally arrived receive the ballot, I pulled out the ballot completed it and got ready to put it in the return envelope in the return envelope was using an iron to try to unseal it and I attempted to steam it open because I watched lots of mystery shows. It did not work. She went and stood in line is early voting site that Georgia had kept open for people to vote and was able to cast your ballot are the lines were not terribly long. But all I can think about are the people who did not receive their ballots who were forced instead in 2 hours long line Jon ossoff, who is the Democratic nominee for Senate from, Georgia?

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Alicia and I applied for are absentee ballots a month ago. We wrote in the county. We send letters to the county. We sound of the alarm publicly. We never got our ballots and I'm on the ballot waited 5 hours in line at a community swimming pool because he never received his absentee ballot and we are strong so we can do that but think of the seniors and soak after he waits in line for 5 hours and votes he gets home and what's come in the mail after a month is his absentee ballot. And then once election day came in Georgia voters waiting in hours long line you had limits of how many people could be inside those rooms at churches and schools because of the pandemic or as long as four hours to get inside the boat. So you had images of people waiting 5 6 hours in line outside the buildings in the summer tour cheats Wii

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Because the line was so long and not in doors waiting to vote inside.

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Women was delivered late. Some of its not charged up the check and folks aren't really clear about what to do with why do you think things went so badly in the mail in and the in-person voting the bottom line really is that it's really hard to run either a male election or an in-person election and doing them both the same time without really the resources to do either is a recipe for disaster elections administrator for Fulton County which includes Atlanta in Georgia the night of the primary said during a zoom press conference. It was an election in and of itself. He was asked to run to elections at once. We became an absentee if I mail State we still have to do our full complement of election-day infrastructure and it's dress dust and that he didn't have the resources of the capacity.

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Do that in the that was precisely what led to all of the problems that people experienced on my primary day. We ran into a lot of a lot of challenges this time. So I think we are going to learn from this and move forward not to hold an election in the middle of a pandemic.

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Yeah means a kind of just all elements of what you would think of an election plus the mail-in voting but didn't really do any of them. Well and didn't really devote adequate resources to any part in the end. The result was about as bad an experience as you can get.

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We did any state get a pandemic primary right over the past couple of weeks and months. Were there any anti George's in the best example is probably Montana to govern are there Steve Bullock by executive order gave the state's 56 counties the authority to mail ballots to all of their registered voters and every registered voter in the state got a ballot in the mail and other states require voters are got the ballots in the mail. They filled them out. And as long as they were returned before the deadline the ballots counted and in the end Montana had the highest voter turnout of any state in this year's presidential primary voting in Montana, they kept some of it but not in a form that would be

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Billy recognizable in a pre pandemic World. They were a Board of Elections offices that were open for people who needed to change the registration or cast a ballot, but for the vast majority of Voters Montana de election took place to the mail to go in Montana. Montana is not necessarily representative of the whole country. Right has a pretty small population has about the same amount of people in the state of Montana is there are in Fulton County in Georgia in the state's biggest County in so it is a much more challenging situation to run an election with with a lot more people than it is in a small state shows has that if you give people balance and don't make them jump through hoops. Skip to them, you're more likely to have more of them return them and vote meaning just mailing them the actual balance and not making

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Apply and then get the balance the way Georgia to when local authorities get pallets into people's hands under ideal circumstances around the country. You can work when there is a concerted effort by local elections officials to make it work with our election all over the world would look as a total joke. It would be a total joke what's going on in this country now is you have the president who is making concerted effort to make it not work and then in all the mailboxes and the people that are signing the well, it's down the end of the screen which is happening to grab the balance. You don't think that happened regularly tweets and speaks about how mail voting is soda free.

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Garfield and a recipe for disaster and a reason Republicans won't win. They don't have to send the balance to those communities and there's no way of checking know you have to go and you have to vote and so it hasn't taken long for this idea to take hold among Republican voters and prickly base Republican voters that there is something inherently wrong with voting by mail.

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Documented evidence of the mail-in voting is somehow more open to fraud know there's not there have been a couple of isolated instances of cold ballot harvesting are we saw it in a congressional race in North Carolina a couple years ago from the Republican side, but most of what you hear when people describe fraud in them both. I'm Elsa tomorrow or either old wives tales or fantastic stories of an apartment building with 30 ballots in the mailbox things that have been chain letters are Facebook memes of the darkness say grounded in in any real evidence is a problematic mood of what a couch in there is a widespread belief among Republican voters and some Republican elected officials.

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That allowing more people to vote will be advantageous to Democrats. And so take it in that context. It makes sense that he would resist some of the push toward voting because it it does make it easier for a lot more people to vote read. Is there a version of this where the president seems to be discouraging mail-in voting but mail-in voting becomes a predominant way that voting occurs in this Fall's election and therefore wouldn't that mean that the president was telling his own voters? Don't trust the most important way of voting for my re-election for his re-election.

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There's a lot of concern about that happening already, you know, you see in states that aren't entirely by my vote by mail, but where it's a predominantly of voting like Florida and Arizona that have large populations of older Republican voters that Republican officials in those states have been trying to push a message that's expressly counter to what the president has been saying about that. We seen in Utah where the Republican state chairman told me that their system is not like what happens in other states and that President Trump in describing fraud elsewhere must be talking about somewhere else other than Utah officials are trying to tell their voters trust the system even if the president doesn't tell you about that trust the system here because the system where where you live it's functional and the president is talking about other questions, but that's what a nuanced is.

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Lost on a lot of Voters who you know hear what the President says and are generally disinclined to believe people who disagree with him quickly within their own party because of the way that the party in the present have functional for the last 4 years certainly hurting the enthusiasm for voting by mail among his Republican supporters 3 months to the day that we will have the presidential election. Where would you say the whole country is our Most states? Looking like, Georgia?

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This is going to be a mess or are a lot of things looking like Montana in terms of their preparations for this election, which is to say they can pull it off more states that at the moment are looking like Georgia that Montana over the 45 states that have some sort of in-person voting almost all of them are going to open polling places for people to show up at but as we've seen it it's really hard to do two elections at once and it's complex. It involves a lot of resources and most of these states haven't done a big general election wear.

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Most of their voters cast ballots in the mail to new for the voters. It's going to be new for the elections administrators and it's going to be new for the people that count the ballots on Election night likely consequences on so many states.

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Trying is the first time in the first obvious consequence is on November 3rd in the evening. When were used to turning on television and the internet and seeing the results of the elections come in. We may not have them and what President Trump and Joe Biden do about declaring Victory or not. Trump has said I should be called on Election night. No matter what but we know that there will be millions and millions of balance that aren't counted on Election night, whether it's because states have voting rules that say your ballot counts as long as postmarked by election day or because it takes some of these takes longer to count absentee ballot that came in the mail and then it would have taken them to count about that was marked and delivered into a machine at a polling place and all of that is going to have a real significant impact on what we know about the presidential contest the Senate races and Ray.

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Sold on the ballot. And of course, that's just when we know the results if this election is as messy and complicated as everything you're saying suggested might be I wonder if there is a much bigger question because how much do you think the country will trust the outcome of the elections on November 3rd, if voting end up feeling kind of haphazard mean a lot of that will depend on people's experiences heading into the election whether a lot of people have problems voting by mail or don't even try to vote by mail or have to wait in line for hours at either early voting centers are on Election Day in a lot of the feelings about this was going to be dictated frankly by what the President says it does if the president wakes up on the morning of November 4th.

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And says I don't care that there are more votes left to be counted. I won.

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Then you can sort of imagine how that's going to play out or if there's a State might take Arizona where it appears that President Trump has won on Election night, but four days later, they received more votes and it flips to Joe Biden and that's the deciding State there's innumerable chaos that could happen from that and so it doesn't take much to make this system look like it's chaotic even though in a lot of times it's either so the how the system is designed to work because the mail-in voting just does take longer even though it's a more efficient way of getting more people to vote. It can take longer to tabulate the results from that.

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So you're basically telling us to be patient and Americans are not patient. They're not. No, I mean if if you want to not stress out about the results of the election by a plane ticket to someplace without internet access for cell signal on November 2nd and come back a week and a half later or 3 weeks or 4 weeks. You'll probably know who won. Love you. Thank you very much. Thank you, Michael.

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On Monday the Democratic governor of Nevada Steve sisolak signed a law that would require sending ballot to every registered voter in the state saying that it would ensure quote the safest most accessible election possible under these unprecedented circumstances in response President Trump threatened legal action to try to block the measure will be like this for mail-in ballots. And if you look at a news conference at the White House Trump was asked whether he would consider restricting mail-in voting Nationwide through an executive order Universal mail-in ballots is going to be a great embarrassment to our country.

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We haven't got there yet, but we'll see what happens. We will be doing in, Nevada.

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Cute what else you need to know today?

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On Monday the Manhattan District a tri-five in suggested that his investigation into President Trump's finances and Company is much broader than previously known.

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A new court filing indicates that the investigation which was fun to focus on hush money payments made to women during the 2016 campaign may actually be examining the range of possible criminal activity including potential bank and insurance fraud.

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The Supreme Court sided with them in a major ruling last month saying that the president lacked the legal basis to block the district attorney from seeking years of his tax records as part of the investigation.

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Aunt the Times report that nearly 3,000 small businesses in New York City have permanently closed because of the pandemic more than in any US city

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a new report estimates that one-third of the city's small businesses or about 75,000 may never reopen because of the lock down and lost Revenue.

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That is for the daily Michael Barbaro. See you tomorrow.

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