Early in-person voting — which allows voters to cast their ballots in the days or weeks leading up to Election Day — is a key way to ensure that every eligible voter can safely participate in the democratic process.
The 2020 election will be uniquely dangerous to participate in — and challenging to execute — due to the coronavirus pandemic. It's crucial that we ensure safeguards are in place to protect the health of voters and election workers alike. These safeguards and additional pathways to voting will benefit Americans and eligible voters across race, ability, and socioeconomic statuses.
Early voting allows for voters with full-time jobs, childcare needs, and disabilities to participate at times not limited to election day. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) notes that long Election Day lines can dissuade voters with disabilities or time restrictions, especially if the choice is between their job and exercising their right to vote.
Early voting increases participation in the democratic process by simply increasing the amount of time — and the opportunity — for voters to participate. And that helps reduce barriers to voting, like long lines and taking off work to vote.
Early in-person voting remains a necessary resource, even as mail-in and absentee voting become increasingly available. Research shows that early voting is one way to address the systemic barriers Black voters often experience. History and data have shown that southern, Black Americans have primarily relied on early in-person voting more than absentee and election day voting. Early voting provides voters flexibility in choosing when they will vote and helps ensure that people with scheduling conflicts on Election Day can access the ballot box. Weekend early voting, especially on Sundays, empowers churches within Black communities to lead Sunday “souls to the polls” voting drives.
HOW YOU CAN TAKE ACTION NOW
We need you to become a frontline advocate with us. Here's what you can ask of your local officials based on our recommendations above.
1. Advocate for a statewide policy on comprehensive early voting
First, research to learn if such policies already exist in your state.
2. Encourage the provision of personal protective equipment (PPE)
Ask your officials if there are plans for providing PPE, including masks, gloves, and sanitized writing instruments. These are necessary both for poll workers and in-person voters throughout the early voting period as well as on Election Day.
3. Increase the number of polling locations available for early voting and Election Day voting
Increasing the number of polling places will decrease wait times, which have deterred voter participation in the past, and help ensure that everyone present practices effective social distancing.
4. Defend against legislative attempts to reverse access early in-person voting and vote-by-mail
Defend against legislative attempts to reverse access to policies intended to increase early in-person voting and vote-by-mail.
In states with early in-person voting, advocate for expanding the number of early voting days.
RECOMMENDATIONS FOR POLICYMAKERS AND ELECTION OFFICIALS
How state officials can make infrastructure improvements to increase access to early voting:
- Purchase personal protective equipment based on the needs of each polling location, such as the number of poll workers deemed necessary and the volume of voters expected.
- Devise a plan which analyzes population densities to identify the locations most appropriate for hosting newly-designated early voting locations.
- Provide a transparent process allowing residents to learn more about a change to early voting policy and solicit public opinions about proposed changes.
- Advocate for policy change such that early voting is available for no fewer than 20 days.
How state officials can support policy implementation to increase access to mail-in and absentee voting:
- Identify the number of polling places designated for early and in-person voting. This should inform the amount of PPE required based on expected voter numbers and population. Funding should be earmarked for purchasing this equipment.
- Identify which communities are most in need of increased access to early voting and plan additional polling locations to meet those needs. Identify also the number of additional poll workers required to support new polling locations and earmark funds to compensate them.