Senate Approves Constitutional Amendment for No-Excuse Absentee Voting

Hartford Courant — In a move to follow 35 other states, Connecticut senators voted overwhelmingly Tuesday night for a constitutional amendment to allow absentee voting for any reason in all elections.

After debating for about 90 minutes, the Senate voted 26-8 on a bipartisan basis as three Republicans joined with 23 Democrats in favor of the resolution. All eight negative votes were by Republicans.

The resolution will allow voters to vote with any excuse to obtain an absentee ballot.

Vote at Home: How does Nebraska stack up?

Civic Nebraska — For decades, mail voting has been a safe, easy, and convenient way for Nebraskans to cast their ballots. Any Nebraska voter can request an absentee ballot for any reason, while 11 rural counties employ all-vote-by-mail. Mix in a once-in-a-century pandemic in 2020 that provided many voters their first vote-by-mail experience, and it’s easy to see why nearly 40 percent of Nebraskans opted to vote by mail in 2022.

Simply put, mail voting has been good for democracy by driving higher participation in our elections. You may ask: How does Nebraska compare to its sister states? According to an analysis by the National Vote At Home Institute, Nebraska’s rules, processes, and systems put our state near the middle of the pack.

Committee Endorses Allowing Maine Voters to sign up for Single Sign-up

Maine Public — A legislative committee has advanced a bill that would allow voters to automatically receive absentee ballots.

Beginning this year, Maine voters who are disabled or at least 65 years old can request that town clerks automatically mail absentee ballots to them for every statewide and municipal election. Some lawmakers now want to make that same option available to all voters.

The bill, LD 1690, sponsored by Democratic Sen. Mattie Daughtry of Brunswick, has the support of Maine Secretary of State Shenna Bellows, who pointed out that five other states already allow “ongoing absentee balloting.”

The Census Bureau Report Reveals the Impact of Mailed-out Ballots

2022 midterm election data released this week by The Census Bureau reveals the impact of automatically sending registered voters their ballot rather than requiring them to travel to a polling place or apply for a mailed-out ballot. 

The Census Bureau released its report on voter registration and turnout in the November 2022 midterm election this week, estimating a 52% turnout of eligible citizens, nearly half of whom voted early in person (15%) or by mail (32%).

Hidden in plain sight is the impact of automatically sending registered voters their ballot rather than requiring them to travel to a polling place or apply for a mailed-out ballot; states using this system had remarkable voter turnout. 

Oregon, the nation’s first state to adopt a vote at home election system in 1998, had the highest participation rate of 70%, with Maine at a distant second, at 64%. Four additional vote at home jurisdictions (ColoradoDistrict of ColumbiaVermont, and Washington) were among the top 10 with 60% or higher turnout rates.

Others include high-contending states (i.e., Michigan, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, and Minnesota) that employ no-excuse laws, wherein any voter can request a mailed-out ballot. 

In contrast, the bottom ten states (e.g., AlabamaIndianaNorth Carolina, and Texas) required a legal excuse to request a mailed-out ballot or a witness’ signature, the lowest turnout being 38% in West Virginia

Examining data by voter age (18-34) further exacerbates the notion that increased access to mailed-out ballots boosts turnout, with Oregon leading at 56%, alongside three other vote at home jurisdictions (Washington, D.C., Vermont, and Washington). In contrast, the bottom ten states (e.g., AlabamaIndiana, and West Virginia) required a legal excuse to request a mailed-out ballot or a witness’ signature.

As the report notes, the primary reason nearly half of an estimated 111 million eligible voters didn’t cast a ballot in 2022 was logistical (busy or conflicting schedules, illness or disability, or out-of-town) and easily curable with a mail ballot system.

Minnesota Passes ‘Democracy for the People Act’

KTTC — In a late night vote of 34-33 the Minnesota Senate voted in favor of SF3, more commonly referred to as the “Democracy for the People Act.” The bill overhauls several aspects of the voting process, and according to the DFL, makes it easier for every Minnesotan to cast a ballot.

The Democracy for the People Act allows pre-registration for 16 and 17-year-olds, criminalizes voter intimidation and interference, and creates automatic voter registration for all Minnesotans who interact with government agencies. Proponents of the bill say automatic registration will have a wide reaching effect.

State-by-State Youth Voter Turnout Data and the Impact of Election Laws in 2022

(CIRCLE) — New estimates of youth voter turnout in the 2022 midterm elections highlight major variations and inequities in young people’s electoral participation across the country. Youth turnout ranged from as high as 37% in some states to as low as 13% in others.

These new estimates are out today from the Center for Information & Research on Civic Learning and Engagement (CIRCLE) at Tufts University’s Tisch College of Civic Life, the preeminent national research center on youth voting. They are based on voter file data from 39 states for which age-specific voter file data has been aggregated by Catalist. We define turnout as the percentage of all voting-eligible youth (as opposed to just registered youth), ages 18-29, who cast a ballot in 2022.

According to this new data, Michigan (37%), MaineMinnesotaOregon (all 36%), Colorado (33%), and Pennsylvania (32%) had the highest youth turnout rates in the country. Louisiana (16%), OklahomaIndianaAlabama (all 15%), West Virginia (14%), and Tennessee (13%) had the lowest youth turnout rates. CIRCLE’s analyses suggest that, along with issues and electoral competitiveness, election laws may be playing a central role in shaping whether youth cast a ballot in national elections.

NVAHI Scorecard: Q&A with Barbara Smith Warner

Earlier this month, National Vote at Home Institute launched our first-ever scorecard measuring state-by-state vote at home “friendliness”.

By now, you’ve browsed the scorecard to see where your state lands and perhaps began scouting obtainable changes that’ll expand access to mailed-out ballots and, ultimately, boost voter engagement.

Our Executive Director, Barbara Smith Warner, answered some commonly asked questions related to the scorecard to fill the gaps and provide further insight into its purpose and how it can support legislators, election officials, and citizens on their journey to expand mailed-out ballots.

Q: What’s the value of the Vote at Home scorecard? How does it differ from others?

BSW: The NVAHI scorecard uses a broad range of criteria that all factor into an ideal vote at home system. Some reflect policy choices and some reflect administrative action, and we weigh them to demonstrate the relative importance of each.

Q: My state is already a full vote at home—how does this impact me?

BSW: You’ll notice that not even the full vote at home states (e.g., California, Oregon, District of Columbia, Washington, etc.) have perfect scores. All have areas where they can improve their systems.

Q: My state has no chance of adopting a full vote at home model—how will this impact me?

BSW: Expanding mailed-out ballot access is a journey, and every step in the process increases access to, use of and confidence in mailed-out ballots for voters, regardless of the final destination. States can use the scorecard to examine the policies they can improve and act on in order to serve their voters better.

Q: Why not rank states according to fraud?

BSW: Fraud is so minuscule across the country that such an exercise doesn’t serve a functional purpose. And with policies like signature verification, the scorecard provides guideposts that enable mailed-out ballot voting to be even more secure.

Q: Who benefits more from vote at home—Republicans or Democrats?

BSW: According to the data, neither. Researchers from Stanford University, among others, reinforce the fact that mailed-out ballots benefit all parties roughly equally. However, if certain players tell their base to avoid it at all costs, that could have an impact.

Q: Does vote at home make a difference in voter turnout?

BSW: Absolutely! There is extensive research on the national level (showing a 5.6% point advantage overall), to state-specific data in places like Utah and Colorado (when they both adopted a full vote at home system for the first time), to 11 counties in Nebraska whose turnout numbers were compared to counties that did not use it. Our Research Library has plenty of material to support this!

Q: How does it benefit voters to vote at home?

BSW: Primarily, voters can be confident that they will have the opportunity to vote. No last-minute events (car trouble, inclement weather, long lines, etc.) will interfere with their ability to cast a ballot. Voting at home also gives the voter the time to research candidates and measures at their leisure, leading to a more informed base. Research shows that mailed-out ballot voters are more likely to participate in low-profile and local races because they feel prepared to decide.

Q: How does the scorecard help legislators on their path to adopting a vote at home model?

BSW: Legislators can readily visit the scorecard and rubric for attainable categories (and their associated policies), which they can implement to enhance mailed-out ballot access. And they can reach out to NVAHI for model language and best practices.

Q: Of the categories identified, what’s the easiest way for a state to become more VaH friendly?

BSW: For excuse-required states, or states requiring an excuse but with a waiver for older voters, eliminate the antiquated excuse requirement.

For states that already allow absentee ballots for any reason, add a single sign-up (AKA permanent absentee) option for voters.

In addition, enacting local option laws that allow cities or counties to conduct their local elections entirely by mail helps educate both voters and election officials on the system’s benefits while also increasing turnout.

Over time, it can be a graceful migration from single sign-up to local option to full vote at home.

Q: How many points can a state get without being full vote at home?

BSW: 55 Points! Plenty of other policies worth celebrating help make mailed-out ballots more accessible for voters (e.g., “no excuse required,” single sign-up, ballot tracking, signature verification, etc.) They, too, deserve praise!

Keep up with Barbara on Twitter: @RepBSW!