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Poll: Support rising for mail-in voting amid coronavirus crisis

Support for mail-in voting is growing as many states grapple with how to safely hold elections amid the outbreak of the coronavirus, according to a new AP-NORC poll.

The survey, released on Monday, found that 39 percent of Americans endorse holding elections exclusively by mail, an increase of 20 percentage points from 2018. Forty percent of respondents said they oppose the prospect of all-mail voting. 

A majority of Americans, 56 percent, say they would favor allowing people to vote by mail without needing to provide a specific reason. Support for the proposal jumps to 60 percent when respondents were asked about the prospect of the U.S. still dealing with the coronavirus outbreak in November. 

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Forty-eight percent of those surveyed said that states should hold elections exclusively by mail if the pandemic is still ongoing by November. 

The figures come as debates around access to mail-in voting have become increasingly divisive as some lawmakers and voting rights advocates voice fears about crowding polling stations in the middle of a pandemic. In states like Wisconsin, Democrats and Republicans have clashed over the prospect of holding an election entirely by mail.

The Republican-led legislature in Wisconsin blocked Democratic Gov. Tony Evers's attempt to cancel in-person voting ahead of its April 7 primary, helping lead to long lines at a number of polling stations in the state. 

President TrumpDonald TrumpDC goes to the dogs — Major and Champ, that is Biden on refugee cap: 'We couldn't do two things at once' Taylor Greene defends 'America First' effort, pushes back on critics MORE has also weighed in on the matter, claiming that mail-in voting risks “tremendous potential for fraud” and gives Democrats an advantage. 

The AP-NORC poll did show that feelings about mail-in voting divide starkly along party lines. Forty-seven percent of Democrats said they support holding elections exclusively by mail, while just 29 percent of Republicans said the same. 

In addition, 73 percent of Democratic respondents said they supported allowing people to vote via absentee ballot without requiring them to give a reason if the outbreak is still going on. Just 46 percent of Republicans supported the proposal, and 40 percent opposed it. 

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Five states — Oregon, Washington, Hawaii, Utah and Colorado — already hold elections almost entirely by mail. Meanwhile, 33 states and Washington, D.C., give voters the option. Voting by mail is only available in certain circumstances in the other 16 states.

Some states are already moving toward all-mail elections. Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine (R) signed legislation last week that, among other things, required an almost exclusively mail-in primary scheduled for Tuesday. 

The AP-NORC survey was conducted April 16-20 among a population of 1,057 adults. It has a margin of error of plus or minus 4 percentage points.