the disparity in voting rules between states

Early voting for the upcoming US presidential elections in Atlanta, Georgia, October 12.

There is only one certainty for the moment surrounding the presidential election of November 3 in the United States. The shadow of the Covid-19, whose epidemic is on the rise in many states, means that postal voting will certainly reach new heights in 2020. The use of this means of expression of their votes divides Americans according to their political affinities.

Voters who have chosen to vote traditionally on election day overwhelmingly support Donald Trump, who collects 64% of their voting intentions, against 32% for Democrat Joe Biden. Conversely, those who have decided to vote by post, or to resort to the early voting formula – a specific American feature – even more largely focused on the former vice-president (with 70% of the voting intentions, against 26% for the outgoing president), according to a poll published on October 11 by the Washington post and the ABC channel.

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However, not all voters are on an equal footing in this area. Due to the federal system in force in the United States, the organization of the vote falls within the competence of the States. A situation which explains the profound disparities, of which postal voting is a striking illustration.


The terms of use vary considerably from one state to another. In 2020, nine states, plus the District of Columbia, elected to automatically mail ballots to all registered voters. Only five states had done so in the past. The Covid-19 epidemic has therefore resulted in their almost doubling. With the exception of Utah, these states are all Democratic strongholds.

In the overwhelming majority of other states (thirty-six), voters must request it without having to explain it. On the other hand, the last five States require from them an acceptable reason to justify the refusal to go to a polling station. These five states are Republican strongholds: Indiana, Louisiana, Mississippi, Tennessee and Texas.

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The disparities are just as strong as regards the admissibility of the ballots as the modalities of the counting operations. Half of the states will only take into account the ballots that arrive before or on the day of the election. In the other half of the states, the United States Postal Service (USPS) stamp will prevail. All the ballot papers placed in envelopes which have been postmarked on polling day at the latest, even if they arrive after the election, within a period which may extend up to three weeks in the State will thus be counted. from Washington, solidly Democrat.

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