The US 2020 presidential election will take place on 3 November, with Americans set to vote amid a pandemic that has shaken the nation.
As a result, analysts predict that 40 per cent of the ballots cast this November will be done by mail, to avoid voting in-person. Meanwhile, around 76 per cent of voters are eligible to use the mail-in ballot method in what president Donald Trump has already dubbed the “most inaccurate and fraudulent in history”.
Despite those claims, mail-in ballots have been used in United States’ elections for decades, with a quarter of the votes in the 2016 race being cast by mail.
When is the election?
The 2020 United States elections will be held on the 3 November, 2020.
Voters are set to head to the polls on the day to select the next president, much of Congress and thousands of state-government candidates.
States will also begin sending-out mail-in ballots to voters who have successfully registered, beginning with North Carolina – where ballots are sent 60 days before the election.
Who are the candidates?
Voters will either decide to re-elect president Donald Trump and his vice-president Mike Pence, or Joe Biden and his running mate, Senator Kamala Harris, who became the first black and south Asian woman to appear on the ticket of a major political party in the US.
Both tickets have now formally accepted their nominations, following the Democratic and Republican National Conventions which took place in unusual circumstances in August.
Could the election be delayed because of coronavirus?
The November date for the election is set by federal law and Donald Trump does not have the power alone to delay as it is pre-determined by a law that stretches back to 1845.
By this law, the date is slated for the Tuesday after the first Monday of November every four years. To change the date, Congress would have to intervene.
Aside from this, in line with the constitution, Mr Trump’s term as president will run out irrespectively on 20 January, 2021, unless he is re-elected.
Could the election go ahead by mail?
President Trump, who admitted in March that universal mail voting would mean that “you’d never see a Republican elected in this country again”, has sought to undermine the legitimacy of Novembers’ results with claims that the process is “fraudulent”.
Whilst a quarter of the votes in the 2016 race were cast by mail, 2020 could see 40 per cent of voters using mail-in ballots, as states make it easier for voters to chose how to cast their votes.
Some states, including Ohio, have already carried-out statewide mail voting amid Democratic primaries earlier this year, with lawmakers arguing over the health implications of asking people to vote in-person.
Democratic representatives have argued that forcing voters to choose between their democratic right and protecting their health by social distancing is an act of “voter suppression”.
Still, almost a dozen states will send mail-in ballots to all voters, whilst others make it simpler to cast absentee ballots.
What have politicians said?
Mr Trump has publicly stood against the election going ahead by mail on a number of occasions.
“The things they had in there were crazy. They had things, levels of voting that if you’d ever agreed to it, you’d never have a Republican elected in this country again,” Mr Trump said in response to the $4bn Democrats had attempted to include in a coronavirus relief bill to safeguard November’s presidential election.
Mr Biden has argued that the government needed to start considering how the election should go-ahead, having said that mail ballots were a “preferred route”.
Then, as Mr Trump registered to vote by mail in Florida’s primaries this August, the Democratic nominee hit-out at his opponent for misleading Americans.
“Voting by mail is safe and secure. And don’t take my word for it: Take it from the President, who just requested his mail-in ballot for the Florida primary on Tuesday,” Mr Biden tweeted.
Data analysts working for the Democratic party believe that – due to increased numbers of mail votes – Mr Trump may appear to have won a landslide on election night, only for Mr Biden to win when all mail votes are counted in the week following 3 November.