The Washington Post, October 2020
President Trump has repeatedly decried voting by mail as rife with“tremendous potential for voter fraud,” encouraging Republicans to “fight very hard” against it. Nevertheless, given the pandemic, many more voters than usual are expected to cast their ballots by mail in the 2020 general election, with those mail-in ballots disproportionately cast by Democrats. In some states, ballots cast on Election Day will be easier to count immediately, while mail-in ballots are tabulated later. If in-person ballots are disproportionately cast by Republicans and mail-in ballots disproportionately cast by Democrats, some states’ results may undergo a “blue shift” — shifting further toward the Democratic candidate over time. Our research finds nine states most likely to undergo a “blue shift,” which in some cases might be quite significant.
Unprecedented numbers of Americans are likely to vote by mail
For the past six months, the COVID-19 Consortium for Understanding the Public’s Policy Preferences Across States has used PureSpectrum to administer monthly or twice-monthly surveys of about 20,000 Americans in all 50 states on their attitudes and behaviors related to the coronavirus pandemic. Respondents were recruited online with demographic quotas for each state; results were reweighted to state and national benchmarks by race, gender, age, education and geography (urban, suburban or rural residence).
In our August and September waves,almost 40 percent of likely voters said they are very likely to vote by mail this year. An additional 19 percent said they are somewhat likely to do so. In 2016, roughly21 percent of all ballots were cast by mail. Of likely voters who identify as Democrats, 51 percent said they are very likely to vote by mail this year, compared with just 26 percent of Republican likely voters.
Our polling suggests that Democrats are more worried about the pandemic and more likely to want to avoid in-person voting, much as other studies have found.