American voters face a nightmare in November. The recent stretch of primary elections has raised a slew of red flags of glitches, missteps, incompetence, and worse that could plague the national elections in November. In Wisconsin, the failure of election officials to send out absentee ballots requested by voters and the failure of the United States Postal Service to deliver them in time forced those voters to physically go to the polls during the pandemic. Once there, they faced long lines in part because of the sharply reduced number of polling places. In Georgia, a similar situation occurred. The state had a major shortage of election officials, poll workers, and functioning voting machines. All of these glitches produced lines of many hours, and authorities broke their promise to provide enough paper ballots to ameliorate the crunch. Voters witnessed a perfect storm of bad luck, malfeasance, and ineptitude. Kentucky was lauded for its relatively snag-free primary, but also saw an alarming number of votes by mail disqualified on narrow grounds.
These states are not the only ones with obvious problems in their election systems. The offenders are not all red states—or ones whose elections are run by questionable partisans. New York, among many others, has long been plagued by mismanagement of its elections, and it is also having problems fulfilling absentee-ballot requests; as the pandemic has caused tax revenues to plunge, the resulting fiscal shortfall may not leave election officials with the resources to print the ballots. The Postal Service is stretched thin and facing a hostile Republican reaction to its pleas for more money, and the perennial poll-worker shortage will likely be exacerbated this year by the reality that poll workers tend to be older and thus more vulnerable to COVID-19 and the flu. Many signs indicate that the spread of COVID-19 this fall could be severe—even more so if all schools are open—and a bad flu season could add complications.