Skip to main content

Sign up for our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values. Direct to your inbox.

Voters queue up to cast their ballots on the first day of early voting in Fairfax, Virginia on September 18, 2020. (Photo: John McDonnell/Washington Post/Getty Images)

A very long line of voters wait to cast their ballots for the November presidential election on the first day of early voting at the Fairfax County Government Center in Fairfax, Virginia on September 18, 2020. (Photo: John McDonnell/Washington Post/Getty Images) 

As Trump Sows Chaos, Democrats Urged to Increase Push for In-Person Voting—Early If Possible

Biden and his party are "walking into a trap in the battleground states," warned one voting rights expert.

Brett Wilkins

Amid attacks on the U.S. Postal Service, historically high ballot rejection rates, and ongoing attempts by President Donald Trump to delegitimize the election, a growing number of Democratic politicians and experts are calling on U.S. voters to consider voting in-person and as-soon-as-possible to avoid a contested result.

While recognizing that the Covid-19 pandemic will make vote-by-mail the safest option for many Americans, strategists are concerned that a failure to ensure large numbers of in-person ballots in favor of Democrats could play right into Trump's hands.

"If you're in a state where you have the option to vote early, do that now. The more votes in early, the less likely you're going to see a last-minute crunch."
—Barack Obama

On Thursday, Axios published an article quoting numerous Democratic officials and organizations, most of them imploring voters to get out there and cast their ballots as soon as they can—which is this week in at least five states.

"Democrats spent the early months of the coronavirus pandemic urging their base to vote absentee," the outlet reported. "But as threats of U.S. Postal Service delays, Team Trump litigation and higher ballot rejection rates become clearer, many are pivoting to promote more in-person voting as well."

With Democrats much more likely to vote by mail than Republicans, the outcome of the November presidential contest could be altered if enough ballots are lost, rejected, or undercounted. 

In Colorado, former Gov. John Hickenlooper, who is challenging Sen. Cory Gardner, told Axios that he is encouraging voters to physically take their ballots to a drop-box, and to do so "early, early, early."

Former President Barack and First Lady Michelle Obama have urged Americans to both vote early and vote by mail (one or the other, of course).

"Make sure your friends, families and communities are registered, know their rights, and are fully prepared to vote by mail this year or vote early in person," the former first lady said in August, a message she has repeated numerous times since then.

"If you're in a state where you have the option to vote early, do that now," the former president tweeted in August. "The more votes in early, the less likely you're going to see a last-minute crunch, both at polling places and in states where mail-in ballots are permitted. Then tell everyone you know."

The Collective PAC, the nation's largest political action committee targeting Black voters and candidates, has also adjusted its strategy.

"We're shifting away from making plans to vote by mail to voting early in person," Quentin James, the group's founder, told Axios.

The shift has been noticable in recent days among progressives and voting rights experts as well. On Wednesday, Common Dreams published an op-ed in which author and FairVote founder Steven Hill wrote that "the best strategy in many of the battleground states is to put on your mask and vote in person before Election Day."

"The U.S. has reached such a perilous state that this simple act has become heroic," Hill wrote.

"Not only will it secure your vote most effectively, it will also shorten the Election Day lines for other Americans. We can best safeguard our democracy this November by utilizing early voting, and showing up to vote with our masks, in as many battleground states as possible."

Hill warned that "Biden and the Democrats are walking into a trap in the battleground states" if they do not encourage more people to vote in-person, and preferably ahead of Election Day wherever possible.

"In normal times, I am a proponent of vote by mail," wrote Hill. "But these are not normal times."

Others acknowledged that while in-person voting seemed fraught with peril during the early months of the coronavirus pandemic, officials have by now figured out how to safely operate polling places.

Experts say there are good reasons to be wary of over-reliance upon absentee voting. According to NPR, more than 550,000 mail-in ballots were rejected nationwide during the 2020 presidential primaries. FiveThirtyEight reported earlier this month that Black North Carolina voters' ballots are being rejected at more than four times the rate of white voters.

In Florida, first-time absentee voters are more than twice as likely to have their ballots rejected, according to University of Florida political science professor Dan Smith. Smith also told the ACLU last week that young voters and racial and ethnic minority voters are "much more likely" to cast ballots that are rejected. 

There are also concerns over Trump administration attacks on and cuts to the U.S. Postal Service, and perhaps most alarming of all are the president's repeated declarations that he may not leave office peacefully if he loses the election. 

Officials for Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden's campaign say that people should vote however they feel most comfortable, and that they have never recommended one form of voting over another.

"For us it's always been about how we can get people to vote early no matter what, and that's our number one priority," Jenn Ridder, the national states director for Biden's campaign, told Axios. "Folks who like to vote in person can still do that early too, by filling out your ballot and physically bringing it to the polling location."

The shift in emphasis away from mail-in voting to a balance between absentee and early in-person voting seems to be working. On Thursday, people lined up for hours in some places to cast their ballots on the first day of in-person voting in Illinois.

Despite the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic—which has now killed more than 200,000 people in the U.S.—long lines have been reported in numerous locales where early voting has already begun, including Virginia, Illinois, Minnesota, and elsewhere. 

Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.

... We've had enough. The 1% own and operate the corporate media. They are doing everything they can to defend the status quo, squash dissent and protect the wealthy and the powerful. The Common Dreams media model is different. We cover the news that matters to the 99%. Our mission? To inform. To inspire. To ignite change for the common good. How? Nonprofit. Independent. Reader-supported. Free to read. Free to republish. Free to share. With no advertising. No paywalls. No selling of your data. Thousands of small donations fund our newsroom and allow us to continue publishing. Can you chip in? We can't do it without you. Thank you.

'Bombshell': Israeli Spyware Used to Hack iPhones of US State Department Officials

Calling the Israel-based spyware maker NSO Group an "in-plain-sight national security threat," one expert warned that "a multi-agency investigation is immediately needed."

Jessica Corbett ·

US Progressive Caucus Hails Honduran Election as Chance for 'New Chapter' in Relations

"We encourage the Biden administration to use this opportunity to make a clean break with previous presidential administrations, which worked to ensure that the 2009 coup d'état succeeded."

Brett Wilkins ·

'The Facts of This Case Are So Egregious': Parents of Michigan School Shooter Charged in Killings

"There were a lot of things that could have been so simple to prevent," the Oakland County prosecutor said of the mother and father now being sought by law enforcement.

Kenny Stancil ·

Health Minister Says 'Highly Transmissible' Omicron Hitting Young Children Hard in South Africa

In South Africa's worst-affected province, children under the age of five now make up the second-largest group being admitted to hospitals.

Julia Conley ·

Groups Tell UN Food Agency to Ditch 'Toxic Alliance' With Pesticide Association

"This partnership with CropLife is in direct conflict with FAO's mandate as a U.N. institution to fulfill human rights to health, adequate food, clean water and environment, and safe working conditions."

Kenny Stancil ·

Support our work.

We are independent, non-profit, advertising-free and 100% reader supported.

Subscribe to our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values.
Direct to your inbox.

Subscribe to our Newsletter.

Common Dreams, Inc. Founded 1997. Registered 501(c3) Non-Profit | Privacy Policy
Common Dreams Logo