"We cannot call this election before we have the answer," Abrams said during the latest conversation in Meredith's :BLACKPRINT series

By Sean Neumann
October 05, 2020 09:44 AM

As election officials prepare for a possibly extended count after November's general election, Stacey Abrams said patience will be key.

"We cannot call this election before we have the answer," Abrams, 46, told PEOPLE photo editor C. Tiffany Lee during the latest conversation in Meredith's :BLACKPRINT series.

"The reality is that a delay does not mean the election has been tampered with," said Abrams, speaking with Lee remotely last Tuesday. "It means the process is working, because it's going to take some time to count all of these ballots."

The novel coronavirus pandemic is expected to lead a higher-than-normal amount of Americans to vote by mail this election season, which has raised questions about how efficiently and effectively many states will be able to accommodate those increased ballots. (Some states already largely conduct elections by mail, without issue.)

The Nov. 3 election between President Donald Trump and Democratic nominee Joe Biden is already underway in some states where absentee and early voting has begun.

Trump, 74, has repeatedly sought to sow confusion around voting in the pandemic, as polls show him trailing Biden, 77, less than a month before polls close. (The race was further upended late last week by the news that the president had been infected by the coronavirus and was subsequently hospitalized, as Biden pulled his negative ads.)

Trump has baselessly claimed mail voting will create widespread fraud and suggested he would not accept the results of an election he lost.

Stacey Abrams
| Credit: John Amis/AP/REX/Shutterstock
Former Vice President Joe Biden (left) and President Donald Trump at the first presidential debate
| Credit: OLIVIER DOULIERY/Getty Images

Election experts told PEOPLE they expect a historic number of voters to cast mail ballots, out of health concerns, while adding that voting by mail is just as secure as voting in person.

“It’s being painted with this narrative that it’s so different,” said Tammy Patrick, a senior advisor at the nonpartisan Democracy Fund Voice foundation. “Really though, there’s a very similar process.”

Patrick told PEOPLE voters should remember to go through the basics: carefully and accurately fill out your choices just like you do when voting in person, sign your name on the ballot where required, place the ballot back inside the required envelope and mail it in.

“It’s important for people to know that it’s not a test and it’s very similar to the process that you’ve already always experienced in person," Patrick added.

Credit: istockphoto/getty

Abrams encouraged voters to "make a plan" and to vote early, reminding :Blackprint that it's an "election season" rather than an "election day."

"You want all the time in the world to get there, so the media needs to talk about this election season and election days," said Abrams, one of the nation's most prominent voting rights activists. "Don't make it a single day because then people panic — or worse, they wait and delay."

Abrams was the first Black woman to be nominated to run for governor by either major party in any state, when she narrowly lost the 2018 gubernatorial race in Georgia to Brian Kemp. That election was marred by allegations of voter suppression and wasn't resolved until 10 days after polls closed.

"I would rather have patience and accuracy than speed and autocracy," Abrams said about the upcoming presidential election. "We don't want speed. We want accuracy. And that means we need people to be patient."