With complications from an ongoing global pandemic, concerns about the integrity of the vote, and historic levels of political division, the 2020 presidential election will certainly be unlike any other.
Texas A&M University professor Jonathan Coopersmith is a technology historian at the College of the Liberal Arts. Coopersmith wrote on vote and electoral technology, and studies the importance of fraud and fear in emerging technologies. He says there are a few things Americans should do before they go to the polls.
Check what you see on social media
The televised presidential debate between John F. Kennedy and Richard Nixon in 1960 is often used as an example of how technology has changed elections and how we form our opinions on candidates. Social media and the Internet have similar effects today.
Coopersmith says the biggest difference is that social media (especially Facebook) allows applicants to easily microtarget specific groups for messaging and ads. Unbeknownst to them, user accounts have been carefully selected to receive content from only one candidate, which creates an echo chamber and strengthens their beliefs.
Check the veracity of the information you receive on social media, Coopersmith said, and know the source and origin of the information before passing it on to others.
Know what’s on the ballot
For the first time in years, direct voting will not be an option for Texans. Direct voting has speeded up the voting process by allowing people to tick a box to vote for each candidate from the same political party. In the 2020 general election, this is no longer an option, and ballots will take longer to complete, resulting in longer queues.
Find out about the candidates for each race by visiting trusted sources. Coopersmith recommends visiting The Texas Tribune for an overview of who you’ll see in each race in your country. The Texas Tribune also provides information on how to stay safe while voting during a global pandemic, as well as information on how to request a postal ballot.
Coopersmith said the best advice you can take in an election is to vote early. If you can’t vote earlier, avoid the longer lines on polling day by voting during the working day. The queues are usually the longest before or after working hours.
It is also important to vote early if you are voting by mail. This ensures that your ballot is received in time to be properly processed and counted.
If you have any questions about postal voting or where to vote earlier, contact the election officials in your county. In Brazos County, voters can visit brazosvotes.org for more information on how and where to vote, and what to expect.
Vote in person
With more rules and instructions to follow for mail-in and mail-in ballots, you are more likely to have your mail-in ballot rejected. If your medical condition permits, Coopersmith recommends voting in person to avoid misunderstanding these rules or instructions and, therefore, casting a ballot that cannot be counted.
Don’t expect results on election night
The processing and counting of postal ballots takes time to ensure the identity of the voter while maintaining the confidentiality of that ballot, which is why a significant increase in the percentage of postal votes due to COVID will delay probably the election results. Coopersmith said this ensures the integrity of the results.
He compares the delay in election results to the influx of traffic on campus after a football game at Kyle Field. On game day, tens of thousands of people try to do the same in the same limited space. On election day, millions of ballots will have to be processed at the same time with the same limited amount of resources.