Success of Mailed-out Ballot Access Policies Nationwide

Much has been written about the success of temporary policies states put in place for mailed-out ballot access during the 2020 election due to the pandemic. The resulting use of those ballots, and the percentage of the popular vote they represented was indeed stunning. But an untold story, until now, is how rapidly voters across the country have had their access to mailed-out ballots improved on a permanent policy basis. Here are some of the details that drive the accompanying graphic.

“Early Vote by Mail Act” to Enable New Yorkers to Use Mail-In Ballots for Early Voting

Norwood News — The New York State Assembly joined the Senate late last week and passed new legislation to expand early mail voting, authorizing voters to obtain early mail voting ballots through application to the board of elections, plus more mail-voting centered reform to increase access to mailed-out ballots. The legislation is now before Governor Kathy Hochul for approval.

New York’s legislation is modeled after Pennsylvania law, passed in 2019, and is expected to have similar impact in the use of mailed-out ballots. Pennsylvania saw voting at home increase from 4% in 2018 – the same rate as New York that year – to 20% in 2022.

The National Vote at Home Institute is proud to have been a member of the coalition that advocated for this policy change, and looks forward to supporting its successful implementation for the voters of New York.

Oregon Leads Nation in Voter Turnout Rates

Oregon Public Radio — Oregon currently has the highest rates of voter turnout in the entire country. Two factors political scientists point to are the state’s vote by mail system and the “motor voter” law that automatically registers people to vote when they get their driver’s license. We talk with former Oregon Secretary of State and vote-by-mail advocate Phil Keisling about the numbers and what they mean.

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.