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Should I Vote by Mail?

Vote-by-mail and alternative forms of voting

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WHAT IT IS

  • Vote-by-mail or mail-in ballots are grouped under "non-traditional" or "alternative" forms of voting. [National Conference of State Legislatures]
  • Mail-in ballots originated during the Civil War. [Pew Research Center]
  • All states offer some form of vote-by-mail. The process of vote-by-mail is different for every state.
  • Generally, you receive your ballot by mail and cast your vote by filling it out and mailing it back or dropping it off at a specific, secure location. [USA Today]

During the 2016 presidential election

  • 38 states offer one or more types of non-traditional voting, [Pew Research Center]

  • 3 states conducted elections by mail with no polling locations, [KPCC]

  • About 36% of votes (~33 million) were cast in a non-traditional way, [Pew Research Center]

During the 2018 midterm elections:

  • About 1 in 4 votes were cast by mail. [NPR]

For the upcoming 2020 presidential election:

  • At least 5 states (WA, OR, UT, CO, HI) will conduct elections only by mail. [Reuters]

  • At least 33 states will allow voters to vote-by-mail without an excuse. [The New York Times]

WHY IT MATTERS

 

CIVICS: The right to vote was not considered to be a fundamental right by the Founding Fathers, therefore, was not included in the original U.S. Constitution. It only came later through the 15th, 19th, and 26th constitutional amendments. [Encyclopedia Britannica]

 

Voting is a decentralized system, with states leading efforts on a localized level. Shifting to a federally mandated system poses challenges. [The New York Times

 

SOCIAL: Health concerns and social distancing measured caused by COVID-19 have forced some governors to postpone primary elections or increase the vote-by-mail system.

MAIL IT IN!

Accessibility

All political parties benefit from nontraditional voting as it increases access. [NPR]

  • In 2016, Republicans used vote-by-mail more than Democrats, [KPCC]
  • In 2016, Democrats used early in-person voting more than Republicans.  [KPCC]

Active duty military members depend on the vote-by-mail system to cast their ballot while deployed. They have used the system since the Civil War. [NBC News]

 

Senior citizens heavily rely on vote-by-mail systems, as lack of mobility or means of transportation prevents some from attending physical voting locations. [Pew Research Center]

 

Many people are unable to take off work to vote. They rely on nontraditional voting to exercise their right. [Pew Research Center]

 

 

Increased votes, decreased suppression 

Some reports indicate vote-by-mail increases voter turn out and decreases voter suppression. [National Conference of State Legislatures]

 

Read the report of increased turn out from Washington and Utah.

 

 

Savings

A 2016 Pew study found that Colorado's costs on voting decreased by 40% when switching to vote-by-mail. [National Conference of State Legislatures]

 

 

Natural evolution

Before the COVID-19 pandemic, states were slowly but naturally moving towards increasing nontraditional voting systems or mail-in systems. [Pew Research Center]

 

 

Saftey

During the COVID-19 pandemic, supporters argue that vote-by-mail and alternative voting systems protects voters. 

 

Supporters also argue that without these alternative systems, voters should not have to choose between their health and their right to vote. This choice often ends in disenfranchisement. [Reuters]

IN-PERSON ONLY!

Fraud*

President Trump said, "Mail ballots are a very dangerous thing for this country because they're cheaters." [Reuters]

 

*"A series of academic, government, and news investigations over the years have found little evidence of election fraud of any kind."* [MIT Election Data and Science Lab][Reuters]

 

Read more about the claim of voter fraud here.

 

 

Confusion

Having one rule reduces voter confusion. State-by-state, system-by-system rules create voter education needs that often are difficult to meet. [NPR]

 

 

Not enough time

States like Oregon implemented alternative voting in 2000, giving it 20 years to perfect their mail-in system. 

 

States that feel pressured to expand their vote-by-mail system argue that there is not enough time to successfully roll out a program for the 2020 election. [USA Today]

 

 

Logistics

Critics of the vote-by-mail system say there are too many challenges in getting ballots to voters without addresses or who move often. [National Conference of State Legislatures]

 

Voters with disabilities or voters requiring language translation benefit from in-person voting. [Reuters]

 

Critics also say that voters who vote early may miss out on developing information that comes out after they've cast their ballot. [USA Today]

 

 

Tradition

Some worry that the "civic experience of voting with neighbors at a local school, church, or other polling places" will be lost. [National Conference of State Legislatures]

WHERE WE ARE NOW

  • Oct 29. 2020: Election officials are warning, at this time, it is too late to mail your ballot back. You should drop them off at a secure location. [NPR]
  • Aug. 2020: USPS warned that 46 states could experience mail-in ballot delays. [The Washington Post]
  • Aug. 2020: President Trump promises to sue over Nevada's expanded mail-in-voting program, but says those living in Flordia should vote-by-mail. [Associated Press]
  • May 2020: Twitter flagged President Trump's tweets about mail-in-ballot fraud with their new fact-checking feature that links to credible sources. [The Wall Street Journal]
  • May 2020: President Trump threatened to withhold federal funding to the state of Nevada because it is allowing vote-by-mail this election. [The Las Vegas Sun]
  • Apr. 2020: Voting rights activists continue to advocate for mail-in voting to simultaneously protect democracy and public health. [The New York Times]
  • Due to COVID-19 concerns, lawsuits for and against nontraditional voting are occurring in Texas, Georgia, New Mexico, and Wisconsin. [Reuters], [The New York Times]
  • Apr. 2020: President Trump said, "mail-in voting is a terrible thing." Republican leaders have also echoed his concern. [Reuters]
  • Mar. 2020: Congress passed the stimulus bill, including $400 million for states to expand vote-by-mail, early voting, online registration, and hire more workers. This was not a mandate. [Bloomberg]
  • President Trump and the First Lady used vote-by-mail to cast their ballot in the 2018 midterm. [NPR]

THINGS TO THINK ABOUT

  • Experts believe an increase in requests for absentee ballots could overwhelm state systems. [Bloomberg] How might you be able to help?
  • President Trump and First Lady Melania Trump cast their 2020 Flordia Republican primary ballot by mail. [The New York Times]
  • 15 states allow mail-in ballot processing to be conducted only on Election Day which causes a delay in reporting. [Bloomberg]  Is this fair or outdated?
  • According to The Brennan Center for Justice, ensuring vote-by-mail is accessible to all registered voters would cost $1.4 billion with $600 million for postage alone. [Reuters]
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