How Mail-in Ballots impacted the 2020 Presidential Election

Written By: Dylan Parham

Americans requested over 92 million mail-in ballots for the 2020 Presidential election, according to the U.S. Election Project. As of Nov. 6, over 65 million mail-in ballots were returned to election offices, leaving about 26 million mail-in ballots outstanding. The U.S. Election Project was created and maintained by the University of Florida political science professor Michael P. McDonald.  It tracks voter turnout for U.S. elections, including early voting. With the data from the following states; CA, CO, FL, IA, MD, ME, NC, NJ, NM, NV, OR, PA, UT. The U.S. Election Project reported that registered Democrats made up 44.1% of requested ballots while registered Republicans made up 26.7%. The gap in mail-in ballots requests by Republicans could be attributed to President Trump criticizing mail-ballots. On television, at rallies and on Twitter, Trump has falsely claimed that mail-in ballots “lead to massive corruption and fraud,” that foreign powers will “forge ballots” and that the “only way we’re going to lose this election is if the election is rigged.” The statement was reported by Times. In key swing states; Pennsylvania, Florida, Michigan, Ohio, Iowa, Minnesota, mail-in ballots had up to about a quarter or more of the total ballots counted, also reported by the Times.

The Supreme Court has even weights in on mail-in ballots in three states. On Oct. 26, a 5-3 ruling upheld a federal appeals court ruling to disallow ballots to be received up to six days after the Wisconsin election. On Oct. 28, a tied decision allowed a lower court decision to allow Mail-in ballots to arrive three days after Election Day in Pennsylvania. However, the Trump campaign is currently filing a lawsuit to stop the certification of the election results in Pennsylvania and to “throw out” mail-in ballots that were received and counted after Nov. 3, according to the Associated Press. On Oct. 28, the court rejected two challenges to allow ballots to arrive up to nine days after Election Day, so long as it is postmarked by Nov. 3 in North Carolina. 

Mail-ballots were also one of the causes of the media’s delay calling a winner on Nov. 3. Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, Alabama, and Mississippi started counting mail-ballots on the election. Other states had an abnormal amount of mail-in ballots. Michigan received more than 3.1 million absentee ballots for the general election. According to CNN, cities in Michigan with least 25,000 residents were given more time—an extra 10 hours on Nov. 2, the day before the election— to process but not count ballots. Processing includes removing ballots from their outer envelopes and preparing them for tabulation. On Nov. 7,  election officials in Pennsylvania released enough ballots to name former Vice President Biden the winner of their electoral college votes after days of counting mail-in ballots. As of Nov. 10, ballots are still being counted in Alaska, Arizona, California, and Georgia, many of which are mail-in ballots. In Alaska, Arizona, Georgia, these delays result in the Presidential race not being called by a few media outlets. In California, the wait is preventing four congressional races from being called. All according to the New York Times.  

On Nov. 10, 2020, the Maryland state board of elections reported that over 1.2 million mail-in ballot votes for president were counted compared to the two hundred thirty-two thousand counted for the 2016 presidential election.

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