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Who can afford to vote?

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A polling place during Kentucky primary election on June 23, 2020 in Louisville, Kentucky.

A polling place during Kentucky primary election on June 23, 2020 in Louisville, Kentucky. Brett Carlsen/Getty Images

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Election season is in the home stretch. With mail-in balloting already open in some states and many others getting close, voters have to ask themselves some hard questions.

What if your polling place is closed? Can you get off work if you have to wait for hours to cast your ballot? Are you able to get a mail-in ballot? How late can you mail it in? How do you know it will be counted? If you risk your health and vote in-person, will your insurance cover you?

Political fights over absentee voting and coronavirus risks might feel uniquely 2020, but this is just the latest iteration of a much larger story. Money and power have always impacted who can cast a ballot for as long as there’s been a United States. This week, we’re looking at how that fight is playing out in Tennessee, and its place in that history.

Ben Lay and his wife, Joy Greenawalt-Lay.

First we’ll meet Ben Lay. In a normal election year, he’d be volunteering at his local precinct, but thanks to the coronavirus pandemic he’s fighting the state to get his mail-in ballot. Lay and his wife are both immunocompromised, but Tennessee didn’t consider that a good enough reason to vote absentee. The couple ended up taking their fight all the way to the state Supreme Court.

Then with the help of some experts, we’ll look back at some key moments in the history of voting rights in America, which have always been tied up in economics.

Hosted by Reema Khrais
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