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The coronavirus pandemic is changing how voters across the country will cast their ballots in the 2020 election in less than one month. Out-of-state students at the University of Georgia are making plans in order to make sure their votes count.

Amid COVID-19, about 80 million people will vote by mail-in ballot, almost double the amount in 2016, according to the New York Times. However, President Donald Trump has issued statements against mail-in voting, claiming it will lead to voter fraud and inaccurate election results. Trump admitted in August he decreased funding to the United States Postal Service to make it harder to process mail-in ballots.

Since she has yet to receive her absentee ballot in the mail, Jessica Martin, a senior public relations major from Round Rock, Texas, is planning to fly home to vote. Martin said she ordered her mail-in ballot two months ago and never received it.

“I don’t really trust the mail system. At this point, I don’t know if it’s going to get here on time,” Martin said. “And since this is such a crucial election, my family and I made the decision for me to fly out on the 14th and do early voting.” 

Martin said if there wasn’t such a politicized mailing system due to the virus, she would have voted by absentee ballot, which she has done in the past. For this election, she said the mail is unreliable. 

Because she’s voting early, Martin said she will feel safe while voting in person. She said she hopes voting early will make crowds manageable, but she recognizes the risks that come with flying during the pandemic.

“I’m getting tested before I go to make sure that I’m good. And then I know flying is a little risky right now but I think it’s worth it in this situation,” Martin said.

Martin is flying home to vote because she said she thinks Trump is a threat for democracy and women's rights.

“I feel like having four more years [of Donald Trump]… I think we could really lose our country. And this really is life or death, over 200,000 people have died from this virus. And we really don’t have any more time to spare. I think that we need to vote right now,” Martin said.

Rebecalyn Barber, a sophomore avian biology major from Endicott, New York, said she too has not yet received her mail-in ballot. Barber requested it over a month ago, she said.

“I’m a little worried about getting it, because…  about a month ago I applied and I still haven’t heard anything about that. And I do reside in a red county so I wouldn’t be surprised if there was an issue with getting my ballot to start with,” Barber said.

Barber said she is concerned that Trump’s rhetoric against absentee ballots will convince her county to not send or not count her ballot, but she cannot fly home to vote. 

Georgia is currently on New York’s travel advisory list, so people traveling to New York from Georgia must quarantine for 14 days.

Even if Barber didn’t have to worry about the coronavirus, she said she has “no way” to get back to New York to vote in person.

Annaliese Poliner, a senior landscape architecture major from Orlando, Florida, would have gone home to vote if it weren’t for the pandemic.

Even though it’s her first time casting a ballot, Poliner said she feels safer voting by mail than attempting to travel during the pandemic. Despite choosing to vote by mail, she said she is worried that her ballot won’t be counted.

“This is my first time voting. I mean, I’ve never even been inside a voting booth. I don’t know, I just think that that’s, like, the 100% way that you know that you put it in,” Poliner said.

Poliner’s ballot is at home with her mom, she said. Poliner is having her mom fill out the bubbles on the mail-in ballot at home over Facetime, she said. Poliner said her mom wanted to wait for her to vote until after the presidential debates concluded. 

“I probably would have, like, taken the time to travel to a place I could put in an actual vote, because I just think that’s the best way to get the vote in,” Poliner said.

Poliner said since the mail-in ballot is not in her control, she has a confidence level of  “4 out of 10” that it will be counted, with 10 being the most confident. She said she doesn’t know what goes on behind the scenes, and she knows there have been past issues of mail-in ballots not being counted.

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