Consolidating Polling Places

What’s at stake: Elections officials say they need to reduce in-person voting, but voting-rights groups argue that could disenfranchise voters who don’t want to cast absentee ballots or can’t make it to early voting centers, the operation of which various from state to state.

The coronavirus forced many states to dramatically limit polling places during recent primaries. In Wisconsin there were just five polling places in Milwaukee, a city of about 600,000 people, down from 182 in 2016. Louisville’s residents, who also number about 600,000, had just a single polling place in Kentucky’s primary. Lawsuits have already been filed in six states and in Washington D.C. that sought to limit precinct closures, and legal experts say more are likely to be filed.

Requirements to Vote by Mail

What’s at stake: Some states still require an excuse to vote by mail, and a handful aren’t accepting concern about infection as a legitimate one. Voting rights groups argue that fear of coronavirus should count.

By law, 34 states plus Washington don’t require an excuse to vote by mail. Many others have temporarily relaxed their rules in response to the pandemic. Lawsuits have been filed in nine states seeking to permanently overturn those requirements or acknowledge that the coronavirus is a valid excuse. In Texas, the state Supreme Court upheld a law that allows people over 65 to vote absentee, but requires excuses from younger voters. A federal lawsuit is ongoing.