Bring the Masks and Sanitizer: The Surprising Bipartisan Consensus About Safety Measures for In-Person Voting During the Coronavirus Pandemic

18 Pages Posted: 19 Sep 2020

See all articles by Joshua A. Douglas

Joshua A. Douglas

University of Kentucky - College of Law

Michael Zilis

University of Kentucky - Department of Political Science

Date Written: September 16, 2020

Abstract

Americans overwhelmingly support various safety measures at polling places for the November 2020 election. Issues like face mask requirements, social distancing, and sanitizing polling equipment after each voter have strong support, regardless of party, even if adopting them might mean longer lines or wait times to vote. For instance, 79 percent of Americans support face mask requirements at the polls, with little difference among the views between Democrats and Republicans.

That surprising statistic comes from a representative, nationwide survey of Americans we conducted in August 2020 about their views of the election during a pandemic. Although beliefs about expanded vote-by-mail have significant partisan overtones, support for safety measures for in-person voting does not.

As of mid-September, five states (Indiana, Louisiana, Mississippi, Tennessee, and Texas) will not allow concerns about COVID-19 to qualify as a valid excuse for absentee voting. These states will therefore likely have a high rate of in-person voting. But the states vary slightly on the safety measures they will employ, with only some requiring poll workers to wear masks and none imposing a mask mandate for voters. Although no voter should be turned away for not wearing a mask, the data in our survey suggests that states can do more to make voters feel more comfortable when voting in person. Given that Americans broadly support some modifications to in-person voting and also express safety concerns about polling places, the failure to adopt them could depress turnout, particularly in states that do not make absentee voting easy.

This paper presents the survey data and offers policy recommendations regarding safety measures states should employ to make Americans more comfortable when voting this fall.

Keywords: voting, election law, election, face mask, in-person voting, polling place

Suggested Citation

Douglas, Joshua and Zilis, Michael, Bring the Masks and Sanitizer: The Surprising Bipartisan Consensus About Safety Measures for In-Person Voting During the Coronavirus Pandemic (September 16, 2020). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3693286 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3693286

Joshua Douglas (Contact Author)

University of Kentucky - College of Law ( email )

620 S. Limestone Street
Lexington, KY 40506-0048
United States

Michael Zilis

University of Kentucky - Department of Political Science ( email )

Lexington, KY 40506
United States

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