Voting officials should begin planning now to implement a national vote-by-mail program for the remaining primaries and the presidential general election in November, according to a new white paper from the UCLA Voting Rights Project, which is an advocacy project of the Latino Policy and Politics Initiative at the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs.

The paper (PDF) represents an early call to action amid concern that the novel coronavirus will negatively affect election turnout. The paper’s authors encourage Congress to provide funding and guidance for mail balloting as part of measures seeking to mitigate the economic and societal impacts of the current health crisis.

“States around the country are pushing back primary and runoff elections in the hope that election procedures can return to normal at a later time,” said Chad Dunn, co-founder of the UCLA Voting Rights Project and co-author of the report. “But hope is not a plan. We must prepare now to protect the fundamental right to vote.”

The paper highlights a number of recommendations, including a universal online registration system, creation of a standardized mail ballot, and security measures to ensure ballot validity. Such measures would encourage widespread voter participation.

“The 2020 election could have record turnout for young voters and communities of color, groups that must be engaged in deciding the future of our country and on issues that affect our local communities,” said Matt Barreto, UCLA professor of political science and co-author of the paper. Barreto also is the co-founder of the UCLA Voting Rights Project. “Voting is the foundation of our democracy, and vote-by-mail offers a solution to challenges that range from busy work schedules to global pandemics.”