That means sweeping changes will be necessary in all 50 states to pull off the first pandemic-plagued presidential election in American history, according to interviews with more than a dozen state officials, former federal officials, voting rights activists and legal scholars.
In a best-case scenario, the pandemic settles down over the summer and the country holds a relatively normal November election. But some experts are contemplating doomsday scenarios that include attempts to postpone the election, a flurry of litigation and a constitutional crisis.
“At all costs, the election must go on,” said CNN presidential historian Douglas Brinkley. “This is not the NBA season or the Olympics. Come November, we’ve got to vote. If we can vote in the middle of the Civil War, and if Franklin D. Roosevelt can run for an unprecedented fourth term in the middle of World War II, then we can figure out how to make 2020 a free and fair election.”
Bracing for the ‘perfect storm’
“We don’t know what the future holds,” said Matthew Petersen, who was on the Federal Election Commission for 11 years, appointed by a Republican president. “If the virus is still widely spreading this fall, then casting ballots in crowded…