New York’s New Vote at Home Law Faces an Early Test

Gothamist — A mid-February special election is poised to be the first test of a new New York state law that will allow early voting by mail. According to National Vote at Home Institute Executive Director, Barbara Smith Warner, the new law is about “centering the voter” and ensuring that life, especially in mid-winter, does not prevent someone from participating in the election.

Cost of Elections

Voice of San Diego — Registrar of Voters Michael Vu faces the logistical headache of all logistical headaches every election year.

With the help of a staff of 64 that balloons to 9,000 on Election Day, he needs to make sure that voters get ballots and sample ballots. That’s no simple task. San Diego County is so full of public agencies with elected officials that the registrar must print up nearly 600 different ballots for voters, depending on where they live. Plus nearly 600 sample ballots. And every single ballot and sample ballot has to be translated into five languages.

Then Vu has to oversee the counting and certification of the votes before the process starts over again. In his seven years with the county, he’s only had one (2011) that passed without a single election.

Now, the Registrar of Voters office is finishing its move into a new building in the county’s sparkling new administration complex, getting ready for the special San Diego mayoral election on Feb. 11 and assisting candidates who want to get on the ballot in 2014.

Vu, who previously worked in the election world in Salt Lake City and Cleveland, could see his job drastically change if California elections ever move to mail-only or online-only voting. For now, though, it doesn’t look like that will happen soon.

In a Q-and-A, Vu talked about the high cost of elections (the Feb. 11 mayoral election alone is estimated to run $4 million to $5 million), the differences between elections in Cleveland and here, and the reason he thinks of himself as a wedding planner.

States That Send a Mail Ballot to Every Voter Really Do Increase Turnout, Scholars Find

Oregon Capital Chronicle — Lately, a rough consensus has emerged among people who study the impact of voting policies: Though they often spark fierce partisan fighting, most changes to voting laws do little to affect overall turnout, much less election results.

But one fast-growing reform appears to stand out as an exception. When every registered voter gets sent a ballot in the mail — a system known as universal vote-by-mail — voting rates tend to rise, numerous studies have found.

Advocates for mail voting say these findings haven’t gotten the attention they deserve, and that they should lead more states that want to boost turnout to adopt UVM, as it’s called.

New York Governor Signs Legislative Package to Strengthen Democracy and Protect Voting Rights

New York Governor — Governor Kathy Hochul signed a legislative package to strengthen democracy and protect voting rights in New York State. This legislative package, which includes Early Voting by Mail, builds upon New York State’s ongoing efforts to improve and protect access to the ballot box for all New Yorkers, including last year’s enactment of the John R. Lewis Voting Rights Act of New York, the most expansive state level voting rights act in the country.

National Vote at Home Institute Study Demonstrates Higher 18-34-year-old 2020 Turnout in States that Automatically Mailed Voters a Ballot

(September 5, 2023) — Today, the National Vote at Home Institute (NVAHI) issued a research paper examining 18-34-year-old voter turnout in the 2020 Presidential election, both overall and by key race/ethnicities. The study calculated and analyzed turnout rates using two critical denominators — eligible citizens and active registered voters —  for 42 states for which sufficient age-related data was available.

Young voters aged 18-34 — overall and by key race and ethnicities — had significantly higher turnout rates in the cohort of 10 Vote at Home states and Washington, D.C., that automatically mailed ballots to all active registered voters in 2020. Using Citizen Voting Age Population (CVAP) and Active Registered Voter (ARV) datasets from a Voter Participation Center study and a significant list vendor (Catalist), the research team first examined overall 18-34 turnout rates. Six of the top 10 states for eligible citizen turnout in 2020 – and eight of the top 15 for active registered voter turnout –were Vote at Home jurisdictions. Only one Vote at Home state (Nevada) was a 2020 battleground state; most others failed to make either list.

To further analyze turnout rates of 18-34 year old white, Black, and Latino voters, the nine Vote at Home jurisdictions with available data were compared with four other cohorts. These were the seven 2020 battleground states that didn’t use this approach; ten non-Vote at Home states with Same Day/Election Day (SDR/EDR) registration policies; ten non-Vote at Home states with Automatic Voter Registration (AVR); and the remaining 16 states with none of these policies. Of the 32 possible turnout rate comparisons, using both the CVAP and ARV denominators, Vote at Home states triumphed, in all 32 instances, often by dramatic margins.

“Despite billions spent by the major political parties on media ads, voter registration drives, and other Get out the Vote efforts targeting young voters, it was non-battleground, Vote at Home states that dominated the list of Top Turnout states for young voters in 2020,” said Barbara Smith Warner, NVAHI Executive Director.

New Jersey, a non-battleground state, boasted the nation’s highest 18-34-year-old turnout rate of eligible citizens (CVAP) at 64%, compared to a 50% national average. Montana, which like New Jersey used this system for the first time in 2020, topped the list for 18-34 active registered voter  turnout, at 86%.

“While SDR/EDR and AVR policies also seem to boost young voter turnout,  their impact appears to be a fraction of the turnout increase that happens when states automatically deliver ballots to all voters, especially young voters,” said Phil Keisling, chief author of the study. Keisling chairs NVAHI’s Board and served as Oregon Secretary of State from 1991-99.

Read the full report here.

About National Vote At Home Institute

The National Vote at Home Institute is a nonpartisan nonprofit organization that aims to increase voters’ access to, use of, and confidence in voting at home, in which voters receive mailed-out paper ballots; return them either by postage-free mail or in-person to a wide range of accessible, convenient, and secure locations; and can track them online, in real-time, to ensure their vote is counted.

18-34 Year Old 2020 Turnout Overall and by Key Race and Ethnicities

An analysis of voting file data provides powerful, new evidence of significantly higher turnout in the 2020 presidential election among 18–34-year-olds, including voters of color, in Vote at Home jurisdictions in which all active registered voters automatically received paper ballots via the U.S. mail before the election. Young voters by key race and ethnicities had significantly higher turnout rates — calculated by the Citizen Voting Age Population and Active Registered Voter denominators — in Vote at Home states in contrast to 2020 battleground states or 2020 non-VAH states with Same Day/Election Day Registration or Automatic Voter Registration.

Disability and Voter Turnout in the 2022 Elections

  • Based on Census data, voter turnout increased in 2022 by 1.6 points among citizens with disabilities relative to the 2018 midterm elections, while it decreased among citizens without disabilities by 1.6 points.
  • This increase helped close but did not eliminate the turnout gap between citizens with and without disabilities, which went from -4.8 points in 2018 to -1.5 points in 2022.
  • The increased turnout among people with disabilities occurred across all disability types and demographic categories—gender, race/ethnicity, age group, and region—but was especially pronounced among young voters with disabilities.

National Vote At Home Institute Supports New York Early Mail Voting Bill (S.7394/A.7632)

The National Vote at Home Institute (NVAHI), a non-partisan non-profit organization dedicated to providing better access to mailed-out ballots for American voters, fully supports New York’s recently passed early mail voting bill (S.7394/A.7632).

“Access to the ballot is fundamental to American democracy, and we urge Governor Hochul to sign this important reform,” said Executive Director Barbara Smith Warner.

New York is currently one of only 15 states — including Texas, Indiana, Mississippi, and Missouri — that still require voters to have a legally defined excuse to request a mailed-out ballot or face criminal penalties. According to the U.S. Election Assistance Commission, the state has also often lagged behind the rest of the U.S. in voter turnout, placing 38th in 2022.

Stanford research demonstrated that elevated levels of mailed-out ballots hold no partisan advantage. Further, a Rutgers study released this week revealed that in states with improved access to mailed-out ballots, turnout among disabled voters increased dramatically from 2018-2022.

“When this bill is signed and becomes law, New York will be one of 36 U.S. states, covering over 75% of U.S. voters, that empower all their voters to receive this level of access to their ballots, and when voters have better access to mailed-out ballots, they vote in higher numbers, which strengthens our democracy,” Smith Warner noted.

About National Vote At Home Institute

The National Vote at Home Institute is a nonpartisan nonprofit organization that aims to increase voters’ access to, use of, and confidence in voting by mail, or “voting at home” — in which voters receive mailed-out paper ballots; return them either by postage-free mail or in-person to a wide range of accessible, convenient, and secure locations; and can track them online, in real-time, to ensure their vote is counted.

Value of Ballots in Hand

As campaigns nationwide, from local to presidential, consider whether it’s worth getting mailed-out ballots into the hands of voters, the National Vote at Home Institute(NVAHI) has an answer: YES. Voting at home via mailed-out ballots significantly increases voter turnout.

This white paper provides the what, the why, the where, and the who: the increased level of turnout that voting at home provides, comprehensive details on which states and voters are the best targets for outreach efforts, and the potential increase in turnout that mailed-out ballots deliver.