The coronavirus pandemic is set to change the way millions of Americans can vote in November, as states expand access to mail-in voting as a safer alternative to in-person voting.
On July 20, Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill announced fear of the coronavirus can be used as a reason to vote absentee in the general election.
As of now, nearly 180 million Americans who are eligible to vote would be able to cast a ballot by mail. Of those, 22 million live in states that will accept fear of the coronavirus as an excuse to vote absentee, or have switched to become “no excuse” states.
Thirty-four states and the District of Columbia already allowed anyone to vote absentee. But many of these places are making the process easier. California will start proactively mailing ballots to registered voters, joining universal vote-by-mail states such as Colorado. Many states will send every registered voter an absentee-ballot application.
These types of statewide expansions affect another 63 million eligible voters. In some states like Nebraska, individual counties are planning to send mail-in voting applications in the absence of a statewide directive.
For voters in nine states, in-person voting remains the only option unless they can provide an approved reason not related to fear of the coronavirus. Traditional absentee excuses include military deployments or illness.