Other Reports

Reports and Papers

The 2020 election was both a miracle and a tragedy. In the midst of a pandemic posing unprecedented challenges, local and state administrators pulled off a safe, secure, and professional election. This article discusses metrics of success in the adaptations that took place—record-high turnout, widespread voter satisfaction, a doubling of mail voting without a concomitant increase in problems often associated with absentee ballots, and the recruitment of hundreds of thousands of new poll workers. However, a competing narrative of a “stolen election” led to a historically deep chasm between partisans in their trust of the election process and outcome.

/ April 12, 2021
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This report summarizes the grounds for legal challenges to votes and for recounts in the battleground states.  States differ in who, when, and why votes can be challenged.  This report focuses on grounds for disqualifying absentee ballots, given that such challenges have been most salient in 2020.  For each state, the report also examines the relevant litigation surrounding state recount laws and specifies how states and candidates can order a recount of the vote.

Final Report / March 10, 2021
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Social media has become an increasingly popular form of communication, and also plays a significant role in the spread of misinformation. Prior to the 2020 election, several platforms have taken steps to promote voter registration and civic engagement. This memo examines election-related policy changes and initiatives designed by Facebook, Google, Snapchat, Twitter, and TikTok.

Final Report / March 10, 2021
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When voters drop their absentee ballots in a mailbox, or feed their completed ballot into a ballot box at a polling place, their act of voting is over. But for election officials, the process has a long way to go. This report explains how and when six battleground states count ballots and report results, starting with the processing of mail-in ballots and following through the tabulation of results, election night reporting, and final certification of election results.

Memo / October 30, 2020
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This report aims to summarize voter registration information in state reports from the Healthy Elections Project and to expand on registration information that has emerged since, examining how 2020 monthly registration and breakdowns by party, race, and age differ from 2016.

Memo / October 28, 2020
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This spreadsheet outlines key dates, deadlines, and important voter information - including, but not limited to, the processing, verification and tabulation of ballots, as well as the canvassing and certification of elections --  from all 50 states and D.C. Users may filter or sort by state or any other column heading if they so choose. The spreadsheet is live and will be updated as rulings impact election timelines.

Resources / October 27, 2020
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Confronted with likely delays in counting an unprecedented number of mail-in ballots, close vote counts in key battleground states, the prospect of allegations of election fraud, and an intensely  polarized political climate, the United States faces the possibility of highly contested election results on and after November 3. This paper explores some unlikely but conceivable scenarios that could emerge.

Memo / October 27, 2020
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A resource guide for provisional ballots in battleground states and national resources.

Memo / October 26, 2020
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Ballot collection is the practice of allowing trusted third-party individuals to gather and submit completed ballots on another voter’s behalf. The pandemic has heightened the importance of ballot collection as a record number of people will vote absentee and many will be unable or unwilling to leave their house to return their ballots on their own.

Final Report / March 10, 2021
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“Election observers,” sometimes called “poll watchers,” are  a cohort of people who watch over the voting process and report on inconsistencies and election violations, and challenge the authenticity of voters. This memorandum details the requirements for election observation in battleground states, analyzes national patterns, examines the types of oversight election observers conduct, and surveys the type of processes states have created for electoral oversight.

Memo / October 09, 2020
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The threat of election-related violence is not new to the United States, but the 2020 election has provoked greater concern and attention to the problem than any election in recent memory. This memo surveys state-level policies for addressing Election Day violence in eleven swing states.

Memo / October 08, 2020
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Given the renewed attention and the greater likelihood that voter intimidation may be a bigger problem in 2020 than in recent elections, clarifying the concept of voter intimidation has become more important than in past elections. This memo sheds light on the rules and guidance aimed at preventing voter intimidation in six battleground states: Arizona, Florida, Michigan, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin.

Memo / October 08, 2020
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With changes in voting procedures due to the COVID-19 pandemic, communication between election officials and voters is especially crucial this year. This memo provides illustrative examples of voter education and recommendations for outreach.

Memo / September 26, 2020
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The results of a survey conducted of registered voters in seven battleground states suggest that although the U.S. will see historic levels of mail voting in November, the levels are below what similar studies showed just a couple of months ago.  While the results cannot directly address the issue of causality, the pattern of results unsurprisingly suggests that the partisan differences that have emerged over mail balloting explain the reduced ardor over voting by mail.

Memo / September 24, 2020
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This document summarizes contributions that companies are making to ensure that the general election goes smoothly in November.

Resources / September 23, 2020
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In seventeen states with primary and runoff elections in August, the process went much more smoothly than in the earlier presidential primaries. Although the ground continues to shift and much may change between now and November, the August state competitions provide important lessons for administering the general election. 

Memo / August 26, 2020
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In March, President Trump signed into law the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act. Included in this legislation was $400 million in emergency election administration funds distributed to states. This report examines state usage of the CARES Act election funds by reviewing documentation submitted to the U.S. Election Assistance Commission (EAC) by state election officials.

Memo / August 17, 2020
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This memo evaluates the risks of providing online voting to mitigate the risk of transmitting COVID-19 while conducting the November 2020 general election. We provide a brief history of online voting, evaluate recent attempts to implement online voting, highlight the potential benefits and risks, and ultimately discourage the use of online voting in this election.

Memo / August 13, 2020
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As jurisdictions across the country look to expand voting by mail and equip polling places for COVID-19, election officials, industry suppliers, and experts have made it clear that jurisdictions must plan ahead and procure the necessary supplies as soon as possible to avoid bottlenecks in the supply chain. This memorandum details the supplies jurisdictions should consider purchasing for polling sites and for the various steps in the vote-by-mail process. It also lists some vendors offering those supplies.

Memo / July 16, 2020
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Other Resources

How can the United States safely and securely hold its elections during this ongoing pandemic?

Importantly, states are not locked into their voting processes for the general election. Many still have time to make policy changes that minimize personal contact, reduce crowds, and limit common access to high-touch surfaces. In making such changes, state officials must consider not only public health and safety, but also how any new voting processes affect election access, integrity, and logistics.

Part of RAND's Countering Truth Decay initiative, new research aims to answer these questions and help states plan for November. After all, safe and legitimate elections are essential to building and maintaining a government that people trust. And while there are always threats to U.S. elections, such as disinformation campaigns and cyber threats, COVID-19 presents a whole new set of risks and considerations.

While the Stanford-MIT Project on a Healthy Election is focused solely on elections in the United States, it can be helpful to learn from other countries' responses to the COVID-19 pandemic as they administer their own elections. Although by Election Day South Korea had recorded over 10,000 cases and 200 deaths from COVID-19, the country enacted several precautionary measures to minimize the risk of community spread at the polls. As a result, over 40% of voters cast their ballot early – the highest early voting rate ever – and the country saw an overall turnout of 66.2% (over 29 million voters in total), the highest turnout of a parliamentary election since 1992. Yonhap; Associated Press. Since the election, there have been 0 confirmed COVID-19 cases related to exposure at the polls. NBC.

Comparative Case Study – South Korea Legislative Elections During COVID-19

Last updated: June 16, 2020


Useful commentary from the directors and partners of the Healthy Elections Project:

Persily, Nathaniel and Charles Stewart III. How to Survive Election Night. Slate. (October 21, 2020).

Persily, Nathaniel and Charles Stewart III. Most voters confident their vote will be counted, poll finds. But partisans disagree on election threats. Monkey Cage. (October 7, 2020).

Persily, Nathaniel and Charles Stewart III. Actually, We Will Know a Lot on Election Night. Wall Street Journal. (September 24, 2020).

Persily, Nathaniel and Charles Stewart III. With Six Weeks to the Election, Six Ways to Protect It. New York Times. (September 20, 2020).

McCarthy, Bill, and Amy Sherman. Trump's bad advice on going to polls to verify if your mail ballot was counted. Politifact. (September 3, 2020).

Corasaniti, Nick, and Stephanie Saul. How a Smooth Election in Massachusetts Could Be a Cautionary Tale. The New York Times. (September 2, 2020).

Hufford, Axel. What's Going On With the Postal Service? Lawfare. (September 1, 2020).

Burnley, Malcolm, and Rachel Dissell. COVID-19 Evictions Could Leave More Women Without A Vote. IdeaStream. (September 1, 2020).

Bloomberg Law. Legal Assault on the Post Office Changes. (August 29, 2020). *audio podcast*

Hufford, Axel. The Rise of Ballot Drop Boxes Due to the Coronavirus. Lawfare. (August 27, 2020).

Radio Times. The political battle over over the postal service. PBS. (August 19, 2020). *audio podcast*

Corse, Alexa. Biden Supporters More Likely Than Trump's to Vote by Mail, Poll Shows. The Wall Street Journal. (August 17, 2020).

Garcia, Joaquin, Zahavah Levine, Bea Phi, Peter Prindiville, Jeff Rodriguez, Lexi Rubow, and Grace Scullion. Wisconsin's 2020 Primary in the Wake of COVID-19. Lawfare. (August 10, 2020).

Gupta, Devin. Stanford Professors Present Research On Holding A COVID-19 Election. The Stanford Daily. (August 2, 2020).

Connelly, Aidan. Charles Stewart III Addresses Concerns Around Mail-In Voting. WGBH News. (July 21, 2020).

Persily, Nathaniel and Charles Stewart III. The Looming Threat to Voting in Person. The Atlantic. (June 27, 2020).

Free and Fair with Franita and Foley. Voting in the time of the virus . (March 31, 2020). *audio podcast*

Democracy Works. Free and fair elections during a pandemic . (March 30, 2020).  *audio podcast*

Persily, Nathaniel and Charles Stewart III. Ten Recommendations to Ensure a Healthy and Trustworthy 2020 Election . Lawfare. (March 19, 2020).