Even before the chaos in the statewide Wisconsin election on April 7, created by the worldwide coronavirus, discussions were heating up about the future of our nation’s elections. The pandemic added momentum to efforts to expand voting by mail.

The coronavirus outbreak forced Americans to retreat to their homes and brought the economy to a standstill, and threatening the presidential election in November. Multiple states have rescheduled their spring primaries due to the clout of the coronavirus.

Stories about election officials in cities, rural districts and at the state level having difficulty recruiting poll workers, and election workers being swamped with absentee ballot requests were spotlighted on Page One in newspapers and topped newscasts on radio and television. Political parties turned to the court system to argue their positions on how to proceed with elections.

In fact, we’ve seen new attempts to expand mail-in voting, a trend that has been growing the past two decades. A bill was introduced March 17 that would require states to allow mail-in and early voting during a pandemic or national disaster and would provide funding for the cost of ballots and postage. The stimulus package passed on March 25 included $400 million for states to allow vote by mail, expand early voting and online registration, and hire more workers, but it didn’t include a mandate.

According to Bloomberg Businessweek, a widely-circulated business magazine, there are signs at the national level of an avalanche of mail-in ballots in November, in 2016, the 33 million ballots cast by mail amounted to almost one-fourth of all voters. This year, according to Bloomberg, tens of millions more voters could request mail-in ballots, even without changes in federal or state laws.

The magazine reported a dramatic rise in absentee ballot requests could swamp smaller elections boards that have traditionally used a handful of workers to handle mail-in ballots instead of staffing up or using machines that can scan and verify signatures on envelopes or have held off opening, certifying, and counting them until polls close. It also could mean that the outcome of the presidential race won’t be known for weeks, a risk we don’t think most Americans would embrace.

Before the coronavirus crisis, five states were already going to conduct the fall election entirely by mail — Colorado, Hawaii, Oregon, Utah and Washington. Starting in November, California will allow any county to choose an all-mail-in election, supplemented by centralized voting centers. Thirty counties in North Dakota and 11 in Nebraska plan all-mail elections as well, according to Bloomberg.

Furthermore, the magazine reported that a small group of companies argue for an alternative, one they claim will boost voter participation nationwide: mobile voting. Proponents of a digital electorate hope the coronavirus spurs adoption of their technology. Cybersecurity experts warn against them. Security experts, however, say that even if attackers don’t change votes, their threat to a mobile election system may trigger questions about the credibility of results. We believe Americans want less controversy surrounding their elections, not more.

We expect the discussions on future elections will be hot and heavy between now and November, and the two major political parties will be sharply divided on the route to proceed. We believe the current system needs to be updated, but given the nasty political climate in our country, we wonder if a reasonable bipartisan plan is possible.