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September 21, 2020 - Amid fears of the coronavirus, a record number of American voters plan to cast their ballots in the upcoming presidential election by mail.
As many as six in 10 (61%) registered voters would prefer to use mail-in ballots before Election Day, according to a new Washington Post/University of Maryland poll, conducted by Ipsos. This figure includes nearly three-quarters of Democrats (73%), compared to half (49%) of Republicans.
The pandemic has made it harder to recruit poll workers and to keep polling places safe. Nine states, plus Washington DC, will conduct the election entirely by mail.
In past elections, late-arriving mail-in ballots tended to favour Democrats, a phenomenon known as the “blue shift.” Polls show most supporters of incumbent, President Donald Trump, plan to vote in person on “America’s choosing day.” In contrast, many supporters of Vice President Joe Biden plan to vote by mail.
Trump has used the expected Democratic blue shift to heighten unsubstantiated claims of voter fraud. The Trump campaign is already suing Iowa, Montana, Nevada, New Jersey and Pennsylvania over vote-by-mail procedures.
The upsurge in Democratic mail-in voting suggests that in more than a dozen battleground states, election-night results may not indicate the ultimate winner. Tight races could lead to legal fights to stop the count while Trump is still ahead.
Trump could also use a slower postal vote count to cast doubt on results or even declare himself the winner on election night.