The Center for American Progress — Voting by mail requires municipalities to distribute ballots to voters before election day. States give voters a window during which they are required to mail back their ballot to an election office, or drop it off at the office or a designated location, in a timely fashion in order to be counted in the election. Voting by mail eliminates the need for voters to visit in-person polling stations and permits them to vote from the safety of their homes. Despite being a convenient option for some voters, however, vote by mail is not a one-size-fits-all solution; in fact, it is inaccessible to many disabled voters who rely on in-person voting accessibility features to guarantee their right to a secure, private, and independent vote. Revising state plans to couple the expansion of vote by mail with in-person voting options is of the utmost importance and would ensure that disabled voters are able to access their right to vote in this historic election.
Mail Voting Boosted Turnout for Voters With Disabilities. Will Lawmakers Let It Continue?
TIME – Republican state lawmakers are advancing a wave of new voting restrictions aimed at reversing the slew of pandemic-inspired election flexibilities, including expansions of mail voting, that most states adopted last year. But new evidence shows that those voting options likely led to significantly higher turnout among Americans with disabilities, a group that is equally as likely to vote Republican as Democrat.
Just 11% of voters with disabilities said they experienced difficulties in voting in 2020, down from 26% in 2012, according to a study on voting accessibility published Wednesday by the U.S. Election Assistance Commission (EAC). Among disabled voters who used mail ballots, just 5% reported experiencing difficulties, while 18% of disabled voters who opted for in-person voting encountered difficulties.
Those numbers mark a major change from previous election cycles, according to experts on political participation. “Anything that makes it easier, that provides more options to people with disabilities, is good for the turnout of people with disabilities,” says Douglas Kruse, a professor at Rutgers School of Management and Labor Relations who co-authored the EAC study.
NVAHI Announces Barbara Smith Warner as Executive Director
National organization’s vision is to protect and increase participation in our democracy by delivering voters’ ballots via the U.S. mail
(February 15, 2023) The National Vote at Home Institute (NVAHI) today announced that Barbara Smith Warner, the former majority leader of the Oregon House of Representatives, has been chosen as the organization’s new Executive Director, effective February 27, 2023.
Smith Warner was appointed to the Oregon House of Representatives in 2014, where she served for 9 years and was chosen by her colleagues to serve as House Majority Leader from 2019 to 2022. In addition to strengthening Oregon’s pioneering “Vote at Home” election system –in which all active registered voters are mailed their paper ballots, several weeks prior to every election – Smith Warner also played a leading role in the 2015 passage of another Oregon “first in the nation” democracy reform: Automatic Voter Registration.
Prior to her legislative service, Smith Warner’s experience included working as a field representative for U.S. Senator Ron Wyden and doing strategic organizing and legislative and political education work for the AFL-CIO and the National Association of Letter Carriers (NALC).
“In addition to her extensive experience and record of achievements– as an elected public official; a grassroots organizer; and as a skilled communicator and coalition builder – Ms. Smith Warner brings a deep commitment to our work of further expanding the role mailed-out ballots can play to make American democracy more accessible and representative,” noted NVAHI chair Phil Keisling, who served as Oregon Secretary of State from 1991-99.
As Vote at Home’s new Executive Director, Smith Warner will lead the organization’s education, research, advocacy, and partnership efforts to increase voters’ access to, use of, and confidence in getting their ballots delivered to them through the U.S. Postal Service to boost citizen engagement and voter turnout.
“I am thrilled at the opportunity to help expand Vote at Home’s reach and impact to more states and citizens across the country,” said Smith Warner. “As a legislator, I’ve seen how mailed out ballots can strengthen our democracy by making voting easier, more accessible, and more secure for all. As the Executive Director of NVAHI, I look forward to working with election officials, advocates, and partner organizations nationwide to bring the benefits of this safer, more equitable and cost-saving method of voting to all.”
“The evidence has become increasingly clear that ‘vote at home friendly’ policies receive bi-partisan support because they give voters more time and flexibility to make informed decisions up and down their ballots, while significantly boosting voter turnout,” added Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson, who also serves on NVAHI’s advisory circle. Michigan voters last November overwhelmingly approved a democracy reform ballot measure that includes such a “Single Sign up” provision.
“Barbara’s experience as a legislative leader will be especially useful in helping policy makers across the U.S. understand how much “vote at home” friendly policies can benefit all voters, regardless of which zip code they happen to live in, ” observed Jena Griswold, Colorado Secretary of State and also an NVAHI advisor.
The National Vote at Home Institute is a non-partisan, 501-c-(3) organization that promotes a range of vote at home related policies, including (where practicable) the adoption of full “Vote at Home” election systems in which all registered voters automatically receive their ballots through the U.S. mail several weeks prior to every election.
Voters in such election systems – which do not require them to travel to traditional polling places or apply in advance for so-called absentee ballots — also enjoy multiple in-person opportunities for ballot receipt and return, in addition to other types of direct assistance for those who need or want it.
When NVAHI was founded in early 2018, this approach had been used statewide in just three U.S. states. In the November 2022 midterms, it was used in the District of Columbia and eight states – California, Colorado, Hawaii, Nevada, Oregon, Utah, Vermont, and Washington.
Oregon, whose voters first adopted such a system in 1998, boasted the nation’s highest turnout rate among all eligible citizens in the recent 2022 midterm election: 62.4%, compared to the national average of 46.6%.
In addition, six other U.S. states – Illinois, Maryland, Michigan, Montana, New Jersey, and Virginia – now have “Single Sign up” policies (often called “permanent absentee lists”) so voters need only submit one request to enjoy the automatic delivery of their ballots via the U.S Mail for all future elections.