Time to Prepare for Voting by Mail

6 Pages Posted: 7 Apr 2020

See all articles by Daniel Shoag

Daniel Shoag

Harvard University - Harvard Kennedy School (HKS)

Stan Veuger

American Enterprise Institute

Date Written: March 31, 2020


The general election’s timing is set by statute. Nonetheless, it would be irresponsible to require people to vote in person in the midst of a pandemic. Dramatically lower turnout would inevitably distort the results. Postponing general elections is much more problematic than postponing primaries because self-serving considerations of incumbency and partisanship play a greater role. In addition, many states lack clear electoral emergency laws, and the courts rely instead on “vague, subjective, ad hoc standards in rushed, politically charged proceedings.”

States need to start planning immediately to facilitate voting by mail. The good news is that a number of states have relied on such voting for some time now. Oregon’s experience serves as useful guide for states with less experience. There are some drawbacks of voting by mail, including the possibility of coercion and fraud. But some of these risks can be mitigated.

Keywords: healthcare, coronavirus, coronavirus pandemic, COVID-19, public health, economics, quarantine, economy, economic crisis, voting, polls, election, elections, democracy

JEL Classification: D72, K16

Suggested Citation

Shoag, Daniel and Veuger, Stan, Time to Prepare for Voting by Mail (March 31, 2020). Special Edition Policy Brief, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3570653 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3570653

Daniel Shoag (Contact Author)

Harvard University - Harvard Kennedy School (HKS) ( email )

79 John F. Kennedy Street
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

Stan Veuger

American Enterprise Institute ( email )

1789 Massachusetts Ave NW
Washington, DC 20036
United States

Do you have a job opening that you would like to promote on SSRN?

Paper statistics

Abstract Views
PlumX Metrics