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Voting Experts’ Recommendations for a Smooth Election Night

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Friday, October 16, 2020   

WESTON, Mass. - Election experts, including a secretary of state, recently spoke with Massachusetts-based Voter Protection Corps about how election night can go smoothly.

During a Zoom panel, they said most people should have an easy experience voting, whether in person or by mail. But Election Night is likely to be more like election week - at least.

Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson explained her state can't open ballots, including absentee, until the morning of Election Day. Benson said it'll be impossible to have Election Night results from Michigan.

"Basic math is estimating that it's gonna take 80 hours to count and tabulate 3.2 million ballots based on the number of machines and people we've got," said Benson.

The vote-counting policies vary widely by state. In Massachusetts, election officials can pre-process mail and absentee ballots as soon as they arrive.

Benson cautioned the media to wait until the grand majority of votes are counted before calling races.

Loyola University constitutional law scholar and Professor Justin Levitt said he thinks most election results will be clear within a week after November 3. Levitt warned that many people will file lawsuits on Election Night, and afterwards.

"A lawsuit without a provable set of facts showing a violation of statute or constitutional law is a tweet with a filing fee," said Levitt. "And we should be paying exactly as much attention to those lawsuits as we do to Twitter."

Levitt - a former deputy assistant attorney general with the U.S. Department of Justice Civil Rights Division - added that individual mistakes are expected with mail-in ballots, as there are every year. But he said there is no reason to think there will be wide-scale misconduct with vote-by-mail or the elections.

Early voting in Massachusetts starts on Saturday. If you still need to register to vote, the deadline is October 24.

Support for this reporting was provided by The Carnegie Corporation of New York.


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