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November’s election could hinge on the voting process itself.

Many Americans watch fireworks displays on Independence Day, eat turkey on Thanksgiving and, on Election Day, head to a school gymnasium, library or senior center to cast a ballot for their favorite presidential candidate.

A deadly pandemic has turned upside down one of these quintessential American routines: the act of voting.

Numerous voters say they are afraid to risk contagion by casting ballots in person. Many poll workers, often at high risk for infection because they are older adults, are afraid to show up. The best alternative, voting by mail, has become tangled in the politics of a deeply divided America as President Trump sows distrust about the process. And now he is suggesting he may not even honor the results of the vote, refusing to commit to a peaceful transfer of power.

For many election officials, it is a time to stay focused. They are working to set up polling places that are socially distanced and stocked with hand sanitizer. More drop boxes are being installed in some states, and, despite confusion around mailed ballots, county clerks are bracing for processing and counting more of them than ever before.

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