With the upcoming Presidential elections in November, there is an uncertainty on how they will be held amid the Coronavirus pandemic. The only election affected by the Coronavirus so far has been the Democratic Primary in Ohio which had in person voting postponed until June. However, this may change soon.
By Wednesday March 25, 15 states will have stay-at-home orders in effect. President Trump has said that the Coronavirus crisis could go through July or August. Top Pentagon officials warned that the outbreak could last for 3 months. However, no one knows yet when the infection rates will peak, and experts have said it may take up to 18 months before we have a vaccine. To look for possible answers, we must look back to previous elections during times of crisis.
The mid-term elections in 1918 were held during the Spanish Flu epidemic. There was a noticeable 10–12% drop in voter turnout that year, from 50–52% to 40% of the voting-eligible casting their ballots. However, part of this may have occurred due to approximately 2 Million men fighting overseas in World War I. During World War II, in 1942, the Soldiers Voting Act was passed to help send federal ballots to service members, but only less than 30,000 ballots were actually cast. Voter turnout was still very low with just 34% of the voting-eligible. Finally in 1944, with a new ballot law cast, at least 2.6 million soldiers overseas cast ballots.
One other thing of note is the economy. With the looming possibility of a major recession due to the Coronavirus, voting may increase as it did in the 2008 elections. However, based on previous examples, we will most likely see a decrease in voting. Even though mail-in voting will most likely increase, it will not offset the decrease in in-person voting. Also, prepare for the possibility of Democrats and Republicans fighting for new ways to vote as they try to benefit themselves.
On a more personal note, I hope that the Coronavirus may finally push the government towards newer technologies for voting. I especially think that Blockchain technology would be a great candidate for this, and I will delve more deeply into this in another article.