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Is our right to vote at risk?

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An election judge in a face mask directs voters outside a polling place in the Pearl Park Recreation Center on Aug. 11 in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

An election judge in a face mask directs voters outside a polling place in the Pearl Park Recreation Center on Aug. 11 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Stephen Maturen/Getty Images

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Confidence in our elections system is sagging. This year’s primary season brought reports of long lines at polling places and uncounted absentee ballots. And just when it was looking like many of us would be voting by mail this fall (as the pandemic rages on), a shake-up in leadership at the U.S. Postal Service is generating more uncertainty. Oh, and have you noticed mail service is backed up in some parts of the country? Great.

This week, we speak with R. Michael Alvarez of the Caltech/MIT Voting Technology Project about protecting the “franchise” — that is, our individual right to vote — and what we can do now and on Election Day to make sure our voices are heard. “As voters, we have to be vigilant,” he said. Alvarez has also been tracking a trend known as the blue shift, in which mail-in ballots cast for Democratic candidates tend to arrive later and take longer to be counted than those cast for Republicans. It’s a trend certainly worth keeping an eye on.

Later in the show, we’ll hear about the 2021 cruise season and the fate of small businesses in the pandemic economy. Plus, a listener shares his experience with mail-in voting in Washington and Oregon, and a distiller from North Carolina answers our Make Me Smart question.

When you’re done listening, tell your Echo device to “Make me smart” for our daily explainers — this week we’re talking about supersoakers, the emerging field of innovation economics and more. And don’t forget to subscribe to our newsletter! Here’s the latest issue.

Here are some links to what we talked about on today’s show:

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