Skip to content
Policy Report Civil Rights

Protecting Democracy: Implementing Equal and Safe Access to the Ballot Box During a Global Pandemic

With the ongoing concern that the novel coronavirus will affect turnout in upcoming elections, the UCLA Voting Rights Project explores effective and accessible voting practices for future elections in light of COVID-19.




The UCLA VRP raises an early call to action for the ongoing concern that the novel coronavirus will affect turnout in upcoming elections given the large and persistent public health campaign encouraging the public to practice “social distancing.” The UCLA VRP urges Congress to immediately provide funding and guidance for a national vote-by-mail effort as part of current relief proposals to help with the economic impacts of the coronavirus. If Congress fails to act, state and local officials must step in. In addition, the report highlights the low-health risks and general safety to the public that voting by mail provides during this national emergency. The UCLA VRP offers suggestions for improving vote-by-mail practices such as ensuring access to marginalized populations, language accessibility, and the screening of rightful ballots.


Key Findings:

  • Unlike in-person voting, the risk of transmission of the novel coronavirus or illness by mail “is theoretical and minimal.”
  • Vote by mail promotes voter convenience, where citizens can vote at home without time pressure, increase financial savings, as jurisdictions no longer need to meet traditional costs and equipment needs, and may also increase voter turnout.
  • Vote-by-mail is necessary to safeguard public health while also enabling citizens to act on their fundamental right to vote.
  • Some states have already begun to experiment with phasing in vote by mail, but a majority of states still need to implement major changes to their election systems to provide all eligible Americans the opportunity to vote by mail.