The key to increasing the youth vote is hiding in plain sight

Researchers are finding high youth turnout in the midterms, but are missing a larger story

December 2, 2022:  There is increasing evidence that younger voters played an outsized role in the outcome of the 2022 midterms.  Multiple sources, including Edison Research National Election Poll’s exit interviews, have noted higher turnout among the 18-29-year-old cohort. The CIRCLE group at Tufts reported day-after estimates in 10 states and saw a 27% turnout nationally, and 31% in a number of battleground states for that age group – second only to 2018 levels. (Link here)

The latest reporting is often followed by speculation and analysis about why the high youth vote happened and what might be better ways to engage that audience in 2024 and beyond.  It turns out there is data, hiding in plain sight, that provides a definitive answer to that:

Put a ballot in their hands!

Colorado and Washington state, both 100% mailed-out ballot states (aka Vote at Home or VAH), have excellent tracking on turnout levels by age group.  They don’t follow exactly the same age break points as CIRCLE’s research, but we can interpolate as needed.

Colorado 2022 turnout of active registered voters: 

18-24-year-olds: 38.4%

25-34-year-olds: 49.2%

Estimate for 18-29-year-olds: 42%

Washington 2022 turnout of active registered voters:

18-24-year-olds:  38.2%

25-34-year-olds: 45.2%

Estimate for 18-29-year-olds: 41%

So, let’s review:  neither Colorado or Washington were battleground states in 2022, and people are excited about youth turnout of 27% or 31% elsewhere when these two are in the 40’s? 

That begs the question:  Is this somehow unique to 2022?  It turns out not.  There are many other examples of how mailing a ballot to all younger voters results in substantially higher turnout than if they are compelled to go to and wait in line at a traditional polling place.

CIRCLE conducted some other excellent research on youth voting, this time for the 2020 election.  (Link here) And what state do you think had the highest turnout of 18-29-year-olds that cycle?  Hint: It wasn’t a battleground state.  Of all places, it was New Jersey with 67% turnout.  And what did New Jersey do in 2020 that they had never done before?  Due to the pandemic, they mailed a ballot to every active registered voter, including those younger ones.

In April 2022, The Voter Participation Project also issued an important report, whose extensive data tables revealed this remarkable fact:  Of the top 10 states for eligible voter turnout of 18-34-year-olds for 2020, 6 of them were full Vote at Home states (NJ, NV – the only battleground state among them, CO, WA, OR and CA.  The only non-VAH presidential battleground to make the list was Michigan at #10. (Link here)

Our own work has uncovered the same story across the country over the last eight years.

Research into Utah’s 2016 general election showed that for voters with ballots in hand, as some but not yet all Utah counties did then, there was a turnout uplift of:

  • 5% for 18-24 females and 10.7% (the largest of any cohort) for 25-34 females
    • So, in the 9% range for 18-29F.
  • A similar uplift was seen for young males: 6% for 18-24; 9.7% for 25-34

And it turns out this data holds up even when taken to a more granular level than state-wide numbers.  Our research into Nebraska’s unique law that allows smaller counties (even some individual precincts) to opt into a 100% mailed-out ballot model showed the same phenomenon. In the 2020 election, counties that offered all their voters the convenience of “voting at home” saw a turnout uplift among 18-29-year-olds of 4.8% points. That was the largest differential among any age group. (Link here)

We could even see this all the way back to the original research into Colorado’s 2014 move to 100% mailed-out ballots, with the two largest turnout upticks being 18-24 at 12.1% and 25-34 at 7.4% (Link here).

The evidence has been hiding in plain sight for years.

We’ve known and could prove for some time that putting ballots in voters’ hands results in higher engagement and turnout for all voters. What is clear now is the impact of that turnout increase is strongest with younger voters. That should make campaigns adjust their strategies, and GOTV efforts going forward.

It should also get legislators and elections officials, often handwringing about “How do we attract more young voters to get involved in our democracy?” to make some very straightforward policy changes.  

Start by making ballot delivery to the voter an automatic thing.

Today, eight states (CA, CO, HI, NV, OR, UT, VT, WA) plus DC automatically mail ballots to every active registered voter for every election, five more than did so in 2018. Another seven allow all voters to request that automatic delivery, called permanent absentee or single sign-up (SSU), by signing up just once. (AZ, IL, MD, MI, MT, NJ, VA). Five of those are new to that list, too.

In 2022, about 35% of all US votes cast came from ballots voters received in the mail. Sadly, there are still 15 states that require voters to apply for such a ballot for every election and provide a specific “excuse” to qualify.  It’s long past time to put that archaic policy into the history books.

Mailed-out ballots hit 35% of all votes cast in the 2022 general election

A new midterm record – by a full 10% points

November 18, 2022: As the final midterm numbers trickle in, NVAHI’s MOBET estimation tool hit the mark on a number of key metrics.

With about 211 million active registered voters nationwide, we estimate the total turnout in 2022 will come in with about 112 million votes cast – the same total as the US Election Project’s estimate, although ours has a slightly different makeup by state. That translates to a 53% turnout versus the 2018 midterm of 61% of active registered voters. Against that, about 61 million ballots were mailed-out to voters – slightly over the initial MOBET estimate of 60 million.

We now estimate 39 million mailed-out ballots million were cast, based on the scaled-down turnout seen across all voting methods. That means about 35% of all ballots cast were from those mailed to voters, up dramatically from 25% in 2018, and in line with MOBET’s original percentage forecast for 2022.

Here are how the return numbers stack up as of Thursday, November 17:

  • Returned mailed-out ballots cast and counted: 35 million
  • CA returned ballots yet to count: 1.9 million
  • States not yet providing complete data (estimate): 1.1. million
  • Provisional, to be cured, overseas yet to be counted (estimate): 1.0 million
  • Forecasted total mailed-out ballots cast: 39 million
  • Percentage of 112 million total votes cast: 35%

Six battleground states warrant further discussion. Two big ones changed from “excuse required” mailed-out ballot voting in 2018 to “no excuse” by 2022: Michigan and Pennsylvania. Nevada went all the way from no excuse to full “vote at home.”

In 2018, Michigan saw about one million mailed-out ballots cast. In 2022, that number jumped 80% to 1.8 million.

Even more impressive was Pennsylvania, where in 2018 about 200,000 mailed-out ballots were cast while in 2022 the numbers came in at about 1.2 million, a 6x increase!

Nevada had about 100,00 voters receive mailed-out ballots in 2018, while in 2022 all 1.8 million did, with about 1 million casting those ballots by return mail, into drop boxes, or in person.

Wisconsin did not change its policy but changed its behavior. In 2018, they had about 150,000 mailed-out ballots cast. In 2022, they are reporting 740,000, an almost 5x increase.

Arizona also did not change policy, but it saw mailed-out ballots rise from under 2.7 million in 2018 to almost 3.1 million, and overall turnout rise too, unlike many other states in 2022.

The MOBET tool presents mailed-out ballot totals – and eventual return rates – in four categories:

  • 9 “Vote at Home” (VAH) jurisdictions, where every active registered voter receives a ballot in the mail automatically for every election
  • 6 “No Excuse – Single Sign-Up” (NE/SSU) states, where any voter, through a single application, can sign up to automatically receive ballots for all future elections. Michigan now joins this group, bringing the total to seven going forward.
  • 21 “No Excuse” (NE) states, where all voters are eligible to receive a ballot, but must request them for each specific election or every year
  • 15 “Excuse Required” (ER) states, where most voters are ineligible to apply for a mailed-out ballot unless they meet a specific legally acceptable excuse

*VAH = CA, CO, DC, HI, NV, OR, UT, VT, WA
*No Ex-SSU = AZ, IL, MD, MT, NJ, VA
*No Ex = AK, FL, GA, ID, IA, KS, ME, MA, MI^, MN, NE, NM, NC, ND, OH, OK, PA, RI, SD, WI, WY
*Ex Req.= AL, AR, CT, DE, IN, KY, LA, MS, MO, NH, NY, SC, TN, TX, WV
^ MI moves to the SSU group going forward

Interestingly, if you aggregate the three “No excuse” groups (No excuse, No excuse with SSU, and VAH) turnout in 2022 was about 53.8% of active registered voters, a full 7% points higher than the Excuse required states at about 46.4%.

  • Based on the numbers we now can see, in 2022 we also now expect:
  • Excuse required states to see about 4% utilization (mailed-out ballots divided by active registered voters)
  • No excuse states to see more than 4x that rate at about 17% utilization
  • No excuse states that include SSU to see more than 5x the excuse required rate, at about 22% utilization

Vote at Home’s MOBET information tool relies on official data originating from state and local election officials, some of it compiled by trusted sources including the U.S. Elections Project and Catalist.

From Legislation to Language, Mailed-out ballots won on November 8

Some obvious (and not-so-obvious) wins for mailed-out ballot voting

November 11, 2022: As the numbers continue to come in from the midterms, we can already see some obvious wins for mailed-out ballot voting. With over 60 million mailed-out ballots, returns of those still tracking towards 42 million or better, and about 120 million total votes cast nationally, the MOBET estimate of 35% of all votes cast appears very much in reach. But there were state-level issues that also show the power and shift to mailed-out ballots.

In Michigan, Proposition 2 passed easily adding MI to the six previous states with a “single sign-up (SSU)” or permanent absentee option for its voters. Prop 2 also added other NVAHI best practices including ample secure drop boxes, ballot tracking, and prepaid return postage. Not only did that move MI well up National Vote at Home’s state scorecard, but it also means that now over 36% of US registered voters live in a state that either automatically mails ballots to all active registered voters for every election (aka Vote at Home) or allows voters to opt into that system for themselves. That’s up from under 20% just five years ago.

Nebraska continued to build on NVAHI’s groundbreaking research on their “county-option” model. For the midterms, the state averaged 52.8% turnout. But the eleven counties that have opted to go to 100% mailed-out ballots averaged 68.3% – a full 15%+ points higher.

Based on their move to no-excuse mailed-out ballot voting, Massachusetts had over 1.2 million mailed-out ballots in 2022, up over 10x from just 105,000 in 2018. It appears when the counting is done, about 80% of those will have been cast. In contrast, polling place voters turnout out is coming in at just over a 40% rate.

Wisconsin’s use of mailed-out ballots is up almost 5x from 2018 (168,000 to over 800,000).

Connecticut passed its Question 1 which approved early voting. While not a direct connection to mailed-out ballots, it shows voters there are ready to demand better access to their ballots, and so bodes well for the next step, the passage of HJR 58 (no excuse absentee) in their 2023 legislative session for its required second time, and then to a popular vote in 2024.

Speaking of the term “absentee,” did you notice on election night, every time the networks returned to Georgia’s nailbiter, they referred to the number of “mail” ballots left to count – not “absentee” ballots? Slowly, the language in the country is coming around to recognize that mailed-out ballot voting is not akin to being “absent” from the polls. It’s just another, more convenient way to participate in our democracy by making the “polls” come to you.

The MOBET tool presents mailed-out ballot totals – and eventual return rates – in four categories:

  • 9 “Vote at Home” (VAH) jurisdictions, where every active registered voter receives a ballot in the mail automatically for every election
  • 6 “No Excuse – Single Sign-Up” (NE/SSU) states, where any voter, through a single application, can sign up to automatically receive ballots for all future elections. Michigan now joins this group, bringing the total to seven going forward.
  • 21 “No Excuse” (NE) states, where all voters are eligible to receive a ballot, but must request them for each specific election or every year
  • 15 “Excuse Required” (ER) states, where most voters are ineligible to apply for a mailed-out ballot, unless they meet a specific legally acceptable excuse

*VAH = CA, CO, DC, HI, NV, OR, UT, VT, WA
*No Ex-SSU = AZ, IL, MD, MT, NJ, VA
*No Ex = AK, FL, GA, ID, IA, KS, ME, MA, MI, MN, NE, NM, NC, ND, OH, OK, PA, RI, SD, WI, WY
*Ex Req.= AL, AR, CT, DE, IN, KY, LA, MS, MO, NH, NY, SC, TN, TX, WV

Based on the numbers we now can see, in 2022 we now expect:

  • Excuse required states to see 4% utilization, at best (mailed-out ballots divided by registered voters)
  • No excuse states to see more than 4x that rate at about 17% utilization
  • No excuse states that include SSU to see more than 5x the excuse required rate, at about 21% utilization

Vote at Home’s MOBET information tool relies on official data originating from state and local election officials, some of it compiled by trusted sources including the U.S. Elections Project and Catalist. See the original press announcement here: https://voteathome.org/national-vote-at-home-institute-launches-new-mailed-out-ballot-tracking-forecasting-tool/

As mailed-out ballots exceed 60 million, our focus shifts to return rates

 If voter turnout equals 2018, mailed-out ballots are on track to comprise over 1/3 of all cast in 2022

November 4, 2022: As of this week, we can say, with certainty, that the initial MOBET forecast of 60 million mailed-out ballots has been met and exceeded.

With reported numbers of 59.8 million, plus some states still largely unaccounted for, including Alabama, Missouri, New Hampshire, and Texas – where, if you add their 2018 totals, you approach another million – we can declare that MOBET fulfilled the target of 60 million. That increase of over 40% from 2018 is a testament to the growing popularity of this voting model across the country.

We are now shifting focus to the number of returned mailed-out ballots, recognizing that it will be easier to obtain reports with accurate numbers once states are close to finalizing their certifications in late November. However, we can already see trends developing.

The MOBET tool estimated that we should see 42 million of these ballots cast; to date, nothing in the rate of returns would cause doubt in that number. We can count 18.6 million returned already, acknowledging that many voters wait until closer to Election Day, especially in states that accept the postmark-by date of Election Day as the cut-off rather than the received-by date. At this point, before Election Day – in the Vote at Home states which represent almost 2/3 of mailed-out ballots – one can often nearly triple the mailed-out ballots returned to approximate the final number. While we don’t expect that for all states, 42 million looks like a shoo-in here.

As a reminder: the overall return rate of mailed-out ballots in 2018 was about 71.5%. That’s considerably higher than the overall registered voter turnout rate of approximately 56.7% and even more, separated from the “polling place” voter rate of 53.2% (polling place votes cast divided by registered voters minus those who requested mailed-out ballots).

With over 60 million ballots mailed out – perhaps closer to 61 million – it will only take a turnout rate of about 69% of those, well below the 71.5% in 2018, to exceed the 42 million estimate.

While the final numbers remain to be known, it is also clear that the gap between mailed-out ballot voter turnout and polling place voter turnout will, once again, be significant.

The MOBET tool presents mailed-out ballot totals – and eventual return rates – in four categories:

• 9 “Vote at Home” (VAH) jurisdictions: Every active registered voter receives a ballot in the mail automatically for every election
• 6 “No Excuse – Single Sign-Up” (NE/SSU) states: Any voter, through a single application, can sign up to automatically receive ballots for all future elections
• 21 “No Excuse” (NE) states: All voters are eligible to receive a ballot but must request them for each specific election or every year
• 15 “Excuse Required” (ER) states: Most voters are ineligible to apply for a mailed-out ballot unless they meet a specific legally acceptable excuse

*VAH = CA, CO, DC, HI, NV, OR, UT, VT, WA
*No Ex-SSU = AZ, IL, MD, MT, NJ, VA
*No Ex = AK, FL, GA, ID, IA, KS, ME, MA, MI, MN, NE, NM, NC, ND, OH, OK, PA, RI, SD, WI, WY
*Ex Req.= AL, AR, CT, DE, IN, KY, LA, MS, MO, NH, NY, SC, TN, TX, WV

Based on the numbers we can see, in 2022, we now expect:

• Excuse required states to see 4% utilization, at best (mailed-out ballots divided by registered voters)
• No excuse states to see more than 4x that rate at about 17% utilization
• No excuse states that include SSU to see more than 5x the excuse required rate, at about 21% utilization

Before we depart the issue of the mailed-out ballot totals, it is worth noting a contrast from the October 28, 2022, update. As a reminder, the positive moves – besides the newly crowned Vote at Home states since 2018 (CA, DC, HI, NV, VT) – were in states such as Pennsylvania (up 1.2 million), Massachusetts (up 1 million), and Michigan (up 800,000), with significant upticks in Wisconsin (up 500,000), Maryland (up 450,000), New Jersey (up 400,000) and Illinois (up 400,000).

We can now see a slight but noticeable counter-vailing trend in a few states that chose to minimize the use of mailed-out ballots by making access to them, or their use, more complex. Or they are states where the claimed insecurity of mailed-out ballots has deemed them unsafe in the eyes of some voters. With the caveat that more data will come in over the next week, it appears, through official state elections office reporting or anecdotal media reports, that some states may still need to hit their 2018 levels for mailed-out ballot requests.

Those states include (as of 11/4): Indiana, Iowa, Mississippi, South Carolina, South Dakota, Texas, and Wyoming, with West Virginia and Georgia appearing to come in about dead even with 2018.

Vote at Home’s MOBET information tool relies on official data originating from state and local election officials, some of it compiled by trusted sources including the U.S. Elections Project and Catalist. See the original press announcement here: https://voteathome.org/national-vote-at-home-institute-launches-new-mailed-out-ballot-tracking-forecasting-tool/

As mailed-out ballots approach 60 million, state-level details show fascinating trends

NVAHI MOBET tool shows strong mailed-out ballot adoption coast-to-coast

October 28, 2022: Four years ago, if you had noted that mailed-out ballot voting in volume was largely a western state phenomenon, you would have been largely correct. The four “vote at home (VAH)” states at that time were CO, OR, UT and WA. And the mailed-out ballot use states with “permanent absentee” or “single sign-up” policies, where over 50% of voters cast their votes from ballots they received in the mail, included AZ and MT. But with the benefit of detailed tracking at the state level for the 2022 mid-terms using National Vote at Home Institute’s MOBET tool, we can see the adoption of this voting model now impacting states across the country.

To be fair, of the 17.4 million forecasted increase in mailed-out ballots (60 million up from 42.6 million in 2018) about 13 million or about 75% are coming from the five new Vote at Home jurisdictions (CA, DC, HI, NV, VT), with eight million of those from California alone. But there are some other very large movers in the non-VAH states.

Michigan, which passed no excuse absentee in 2018, was already an upside outlier in mailed-out ballot use given its prior policy. They are going from 1.1 million to 1.8 million, or put another way, from 15.6% utilization by their registered voters to 21.6%.

More impressive are two other states that have changed policy since 2018.

Pennsylvania passed no excuse absentee in 2019. They are going from 216,000 to 1.3 million or 3.5% utilization to 14.7% of their registered voters.

But the biggest mover is Massachusetts. They passed no excuse absentee in early 2022. They are going from 105,000 in 2018 to 1.1 million this year, or from 3.3% utilization to 22.5%. MA included in their no excuse “VOTES” Act a provision whereby the SoS is required to send a mailed-out ballot application to every registered voter for every election. That undoubtedly accounts for a major portion the differential lift between PA and MA.

Hitting 60 million (or more) mailed-out ballots means that voting using that model has gone “mainstream” beyond the few initial states in the western third of the country. Depending on total turnout, and return rates for those mailed-out ballots, about one-third of all US votes or more will have been cast by a ballot the voter received in the mail, in a non-pandemic emergency rules year.

It will demonstrate that with the big upticks in MA, MI and PA, and smaller but still important ones in states like MD (up 400,000), NJ (up 400,000), VT (up 400,000) and IL (up 300,000), coupled with DC just voting to be the second jurisdiction in the east (after VT) to mail ballots to all registered voters, this policy now has strong legs nationwide.

Better mailed-out ballot access policies are welcomed and embraced by voters.

The numbers tell us that policy matters, and implementation does too.

That second order potential impact is how the policy is rolled out. The Massachusetts case is instructive. By mailing applications to all, they increased the ease of access to the new policy, and the voters responded. Illinois passed a “single sign-up (SSU)” law a few years ago where voters can opt in to always have their ballot delivered in the mail, essentially making themselves a “vote at home” voter. But just this year, Illinois started promoting signing up for that option, which should result in that state seeing an even larger increase in mailed-out ballot requests in 2024. If Michigan passes its “Proposal 2,” which includes a SSU provision, they will see higher numbers, too.

To summarize: Our forecast remains: Mailed-out ballot activity will increase at least 40% in 2022 versus 2018 levels – to an estimated 60 million mailed-out, with over 42 million returned. Today, the mailed-out number hit 58.5 million.

The MOBET tool presents mailed-out ballot totals – and eventual return rates – in four categories:

  • 9 “Vote at Home” (VAH) jurisdictions, where every active registered voter receives a ballot in the mail automatically for every election
  • 6 “No Excuse – Single Sign-Up” (NE/SSU) states, where any voter, through a single application, can sign up to automatically receive ballots for all future elections
  • 21 “No Excuse” (NE) states, where all voters are eligible to receive a ballot, but must request them for each specific election or every year
  • 15 “Excuse Required” (ER) states, where most voters are ineligible to apply for a mailed-out ballot, unless they meet a specific legally acceptable excuse

*VAH = CA, CO, DC, HI, NV, OR, UT, VT, WA
*No Ex-SSU = AZ, IL, MD, MT, NJ, VA
*No Ex = AK, FL, GA, ID, IA, KS, ME, MA, MI, MN, NE, NM, NC, ND, OH, OK, PA, RI, SD, WI, WY
*Ex Req.= AL, AR, CT, DE, IN, KY, LA, MS, MO, NH, NY, SC, TN, TX, WV

Many states where the voter must request a mailed-out ballot are not yet reporting their volume of requests. So, the 2022 numbers will continue to grow over the next two weeks as more voters apply for mailed-out ballots. For the nine VAH states, mailed-out ballot growth will primarily result from increased voter registration totals.

For reference, in 2022 we expect:

  • Excuse required states to see about 4% utilization
  • No excuse states to see about 4x that rate at 15% utilization
  • No excuse states that include SSU to see about 5x the excuse required rate, at 20% utilization

As of October 28, 2022, you can see below that not only has the overall actual number climbed substantially to 58.5 million from 53.8 million two weeks ago, and two groups – the “No Excuse – single sign-up” and “No Excuse” cohorts have already exceeded the levels forecasted by MOBET.

Vote at Home’s MOBET information tool relies on official data originating from state and local election officials, some of it compiled by trusted sources including the U.S. Elections Project and Catalist. See the original press announcement here: https://voteathome.org/national-vote-at-home-institute-launches-new-mailed-out-ballot-tracking-forecasting-tool/

Mailed-out ballots tracking for 60 million nationally in the November midterms

NVAHI MOBET tool reports 57.1M already scheduled or requested, up from 53.8M last week

October 21, 2022: Today the National Vote at Home Institute (NVAHI) updated the data from its Mailed-Out Ballot Estimation Tracker MOBET) from its initial launch on October 13. The tool was launched to help journalists, legislators, elections officials and the public forecast the likely level and impact of mailed-out ballots for the 2022 general election.

Our forecast remains: Mailed-out ballot activity will increase at least 40% in 2022 versus 2018 levels – to an estimated 60 million mailed-out, with over 42 million returned.

In contrast, in the 2018 midterms, the US Election Assistance Commission reported about 42 million mailed-out ballots issued, with about 30 million of them returned. Returned mailed-out ballots constituted roughly 25% of all votes cast that year. This year, it may hit 35%.

The MOBET tool presents mailed-out ballot totals – and eventual return rates – in four categories:

  • 9 “Vote at Home” (VAH) jurisdictions, where every active registered voter receives a ballot in the mail automatically for every election
  • 6 “No Excuse – Single Sign-Up” (NE/SSU) states, where any voter, through a single application, can sign up to automatically receive ballots for all future elections
  • 21 “No Excuse” (NE) states, where all voters are eligible to receive a ballot, but must request them for each specific election or every year
  • 15 “Excuse Required” (ER) states, where most voters are ineligible to apply for a mailed-out ballot, unless they meet a specific legally acceptable excuse

*VAH = CA, CO, DC, HI, NV, OR, UT, VT, WA
*No Ex-SSU = AZ, IL, MD, MT, NJ, VA
*No Ex = AK, FL, GA, ID, IA, KS, ME, MA, MI, MN, NE, NM, NC, ND, OH, OK, PA, RI, SD, WI, WY
*Ex Req.= AL, AR, CT, DE, IN, KY, LA, MS, MO, NH, NY, SC, TN, TX, WV

Many states where the voter must request a mailed-out ballot are not yet reporting their volume of requests. So, the 2022 numbers will continue to grow over the next few weeks as more voters apply for mailed-out ballots. For the 9 VAH states, mailed-out ballot growth will primarily result from increased voter registration totals.

As of October 21, 2022, you can see below that not only has the overall actual number climbed substantially to 57.1 million from 53.8 million a week ago, but one group – the “No Excuse – single sign-up” cohort has already exceeded the level forecasted by MOBET.

A few individual states deserve mention. The five new VAH states since 2018 (CA, DC, HI, NV, VT) will contribute about 11 million of the expected 17.4 million mailed-out ballot increase. But some states with more incremental policy changes are also major movers.

  • Massachusetts, which passed “no excuse for all” earlier in 2022 is up 10x, from 105,000 in 2018 to over 1 million today. The state also mails “absentee ballot request forms” to all registered voters.
  • Pennsylvania, which passed no excuse in 2018, is up almost 6x, from about 200,000 then to 1.2 million now.
  • Michigan, which also passed no excuse for all in 2018, is up 50% from 1.1 million to 1.7 million. Michigan has a citizen initiative, Measure 2, that contains SSU on the ballot in November.
  • Maryland, which passed a SSU law, is up almost 4x from about 140,000 to 570,000.

On average, mailed-out ballot utilization levels are expected to end up at:

  • Only about 4% of voters in the Excuse Required states
  • That jumps almost 4x to 15% of voters in the No Excuse states
  • And it jumps almost 5x to 20% of voters in the No Excuse – Single Sign-up states

Better mailed-out ballot access policies are welcomed and embraced by voters.

Vote at Home’s MOBET information tool relies on official data originating from state and local election officials, some of it compiled by trusted sources including the U.S. Elections Project and Catalist. See the original press announcement here: https://voteathome.org/national-vote-at-home-institute-launches-new-mailed-out-ballot-tracking-forecasting-tool/

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National Vote at Home Institute launches new mailed-out ballot tracking & forecasting tool.

Mailed-Out Ballot Estimation Tracker (MOBET) will provide key insights into 2022 election

October 14, 2022:  Today the National Vote at Home Institute (NVAHI) launched a new tool to help journalists, legislators, elections officials and the public forecast the likely level and impact of mailed-out ballots for the 2022 general election.

In the 2018 midterms, the US Election Assistance Commission reported about 42 million mailed-out ballots issued, with about 30 million of them returned. Returned mailed-out ballots constituted roughly 25% of all votes cast that year.

Our initial forecast (as of 10/14): Mailed-out ballot activity will increase at least 40% in 2022 versus 2018 levels – to an estimated 60 million mailed-out, with over 42 million returned.

Vote at Home’s MOBET information tool relies on official data originating from state and local election officials, some of it compiled by trusted sources including the U.S. Elections Project. (See Methodology below)

The MOBET tool presents mailed-out ballot totals – and eventual return rates – in four categories:

  • 9 “Vote at Home” (VAH) jurisdictions, where every active registered voter receives a ballot in the mail automatically for every election
  • 6 “No Excuse – Single Sign-Up” (NE/SSU) states, where any voter, through a single application, can sign up to automatically receive ballots for all future elections
  • 21 “No Excuse” (NE) states, where all voters are eligible to receive a ballot, but must request them for each specific election or every year
  • 15 “Excuse Required” (ER) states, where most voters are ineligible to apply for a mailed-out ballot, unless they meet a specific legally acceptable excuse

Many states where the voter must request a mailed-out ballot are not yet reporting their volume of requests. So, most states’ 2022 numbers will grow over the next few weeks as more voters apply for mailed-out ballots. For the 9 VAH states, mailed-out ballot growth will primarily result from increased voter registration totals.

As of October 14, 2022, NVAHI estimates that about 18 million more ballots will be mailed out in 2022, compared to 2018 — 60 million vs. 42 million — and that if historic return rates apply, at least 12 million more ballots will be returned (42 million vs 30 million).

In addition to providing 2018 benchmark information and showing current 2022 totals of mailed-out ballots, the table below includes estimates for eventual 2022 mailed-out ballots sent and return rates based on NVAHI research. (M = millions

State Group (*see key below(
Registered Voters as of 10/14
Percent of total US registered voters
2022 mailed-out ballots to be sent as of 10/14
2022 Estimated mailed-out ballots sent – on 11/8
2022 Estimated mailed-out ballots cast (turnout %)
2018 mailed ballots sent out
2018 mailed out ballots cast
Vote at Home (VAH)
38.7M
18.1%
38.7M
39.6M
25.7M (65%)
26.4M
17.1M
No Excuse – SSU
29.6M
13.9%
4.5M
5.8M
4.3M (74%)
4.4M
3.3M
No Excuse for all
79.5M
37.3%
10.6M
12M
10.2M (85%)
9.1M
7.8M
Excuse Required
65.5M
30.7%
<0.1M
2.6M
2.3M
2.5M
2.3M
Totals
213.2M (~215M expected by 11/8)
100%
53.8M
60M
42.6M (71%)
42.2M
30.4M

*VAH = CA, CO, DC, HI, NV, OR, UT, VT, WA

*No Ex-SSU = AZ, IL, MD, MT, NJ, VA

*No Ex = AK, FL, GA, ID, IA, KS, ME, MA, MI, MN, NE, NM, NC, ND, OH, OK, PA, RI, SD, WI, WY

*Ex Req.= AL, AR, CT, DE, IN, KY, LA, MS, MO, NH, NY, SC, TN, TX, WV

If the 2022 turnout rate matches 2018, that will equate to about 118 million votes cast, so mailed-out ballots will account for 35%.

That 35% is a remarkable jump from 25% just four years ago, this time with no COVID driver.

Finally, it is interesting to see how policy drives behavior. 

On average, mailed-out ballot utilization levels are:

  • Only about 4% of voters in Excuse Required states
  • That jumps almost 4x to 15% of voters in No Excuse states
  • And it jumps almost 5x to 20% of voters in No Excuse – Single Sign-up states

Better mailed-out ballot access policies are welcomed and embraced by voters.

Methodology:

While the best official source for mail ballot use in the 2022 election – the U.S. Election Assistance Commission’s EAVS report – won’t be published until mid-2023, NVAHI has high confidence in the data presented here. In addition to our long-standing expertise and our daily monitoring of data from official sources, we are appreciative of data and analysis being compiled and made timely available to us and others by various other entities, most notably the U.S. Elections Project and Catalist (a major list vendor). Since some of this data is proprietary, our weekly summaries will aggregate individual state data into the four “policy buckets” mentioned above. However, we will publish and analyze some state-specific data if it’s entirely available from official public sources. One final note about terminology, and why we use “mailed-out ballots.” The MOBET tool focuses on how voters receive their ballots, not how they are ultimately cast. The term “vote by mail” can wrongly imply that mailed-out ballots must also be returned through the U.S. Postal Service. Although most mail ballots are returned this way, in many full “Vote at Home” election system states – e.g., Oregon and Colorado — more than 50% of mailed out ballots are actually cast in-person, as voters return them to secure drop boxes, official voting centers, or elections offices.
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Deliver My Vote Education Fund, National Vote At Home Institute, and The Andrew Goodman Foundation Announce New Research Publication

Deliver My Vote Education Fund, in partnership with National VoteAt Home Institute and The Andrew Goodman Foundation, is proud to announce a new research publication, Vote-By-Mail: Modeling Voter Participation in the 2018 Midterm Election, examining the difference between five vote-by-mail policies in place in the 2018 midterm elections and the impact of the policies on voter turnout.

“Deliver My Vote is proud to be the only national nonpartisan organization leading with vote-by-mail strategies, building a sustainable grassroots, field-based model of organizing for voter access, education, and research, while partnering and growing strategic capacity with local organizations. This research demonstrates that there are indeed opportunities to engage with and empower young voters and voters of color to access their ballots through the vote-by-mail process and build toward a stronger, more representative democracy. We are encouraged that states are expanding vote-by-mail options to give voters more opportunity and choice and the evidence supports the need for such access.” – Amanda Pohl, Executive Director of Deliver My Vote Education Fund

“This rigorous study makes an important contribution to an increasingly large body of evidence revealing that when mailed-out, paper ballots are made far more accessible, voter turnout goes up significantly,” noted Phil Keisling, chair of the National Vote at Home Institute. “This doesn’t just help voters — it strengths our democracy and makes it more representative.” As Oregon Secretary of State, Keisling led the 1998 effort to create the nation’s first “Vote at Home” election system in which all active registered voters automatically receive their ballots in the mail, a system that eight states will use in the 2022 midterms.

“The Andrew Goodman Foundation is thrilled to partner with Deliver My Vote on this exciting new research. Young voters are one of the most powerful forces in our democracy, so it is imperative that they are educated about what their voting options are and have the accessibility to cast their ballot by-mail or in-person. We are excited to continue our work with Deliver My Vote to ensure that young voices are heard in the upcoming midterms and future elections.” –Charles Imohiosen, Esq., President and CEO of The Andrew Goodman Foundation

The COVID-19 pandemic caused many states to respond quickly to the changing needs of voters – namely by expanding vote-by-mail programs in many states. This provided an opportunity to expand access, grow participation, and change the way elections are run. As we enter the election season two years later, many of these expanded policies remain in place. By adopting and strengthening vote-by-mail policies, states encourage access to the ballot and therefore reduce barriers to voter participation universally. These are bedrock principles to a healthy and inclusive democratic system. Research conclusively shows that vote-by-mail policies will help us achieve these goals.

In Vote-By-Mail: Modeling Voter Participation in the 2018 Midterm Election, the researcher demonstrates that more expansive vote-by-mail policies, especially Permanent Mail Ballot Options and Vote at Home policies, increase voter turnout. For example, counties moving from either Excuse Required or Excuse Required with anAge Waiver to No Excuse vote-by-mail would increase turnout 2 or 3 percentage points. Counties with No Excuse vote-by-mail increase another 2 to 3 percentage points when moving to a Vote at Home or Permanent Mail Ballot Option policy. Overall, for Excuse Required counties, moving to Vote at Home would increase turnout 4 percentage points; 5.1 percentage points if they moved to Permanent Mail Ballot Option.

Additionally, the research finds that Vote at Home policies are particularly impactful among younger voters across racial and ethnic groups. When looking at county-level data, younger counties with a median age of 44 or lower that have adopted VoteAt Home policies show a 4.2% boost in turnout. By exploring how vote-by-mail policies have already impacted the political landscape of the United States, we identify potential to radically expand access and participation for all voters, particularly young voters. This is especially relevant as young people are becoming more politically active and consequently exploring voting options.

These findings are consistent with Deliver My Vote Education Fund’s previous research during COVID-19 that shows young voters and voters of color turn out in higher numbers when given vote-by-mail options. In Vote By Mail in 2020 and Our Opportunity for 2022, we found that, state-by-state, low propensity voters were 10x more likely to cast a ballot if they had applied for a mail-in ballot in 2020. We also observed that young voters, especially voters of color, were more likely to vote if given vote-by-mail options. Voters of all backgrounds embraced vote-by-mail as a safe way to vote during the pandemic, while also realizing the remarkable convenience.

Effective vote-by-mail policies are critical tools to improve participation in elections at local, county, state, and federal levels. If voter activation is a priority, this research demonstrates that more expansive VBM policies lead to increased voter turnout, particularly among young voters who are often the most impacted by voter suppression tactics and restrictive vote-by-mail policies.

About Deliver My Vote Education Fund
Deliver My Vote Education Fund is a non-partisan, non-profit 501(c)3 organization focused on research and education about voting-by-mail. We support deeply embedded on-the-ground organizations with tools, expertise, and resources to build trust in the vote-by-mail process within historically disenfranchised communities of color. As an education fund, we focus on empowering all Black, Latino, AAPI, Indigenous, immigrant, and young voters within specific counties or localities that our grassroots 501(c)3 local partners identify as unserved or underserved areas.

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.

About The Andrew Goodman Foundation
The Andrew Goodman Foundation’s mission is to make young voices and votes a powerful force in democracy by training the next generation of leaders, engaging young voters, and challenging restrictive voter suppression laws. The organization is named after Andrew Goodman, a Freedom Summer volunteer and champion of equality and voting rights who was murdered, alongside James Earl Chaney and Michael Schwerner, by the KKK in 1964 while registering BlackAmericans to vote in Mississippi.

Key takeaways from the 2022 primaries (so far)

  • Vote-at-home states (OR, NV, and CA, and the mail-in special primary in AK) and states offering extensive access to mail ballots are outperforming others, averaging 32% turnout. This is compared to states that require an excuse to vote absentee or voters to apply for a mail-in ballot every election, which are averaging 19% and 22% respectively.
  • Nebraska, although not a vote-at-home state, has 11 counties voting entirely by mail. Turnout in those counties averaged 55%, more than 20% higher than the remainder of the state.
  • Similarly, North Dakota’s 42 vote-by-mail counties are averaging greater than 6% higher than its 11 polling-place counties.
  • Nearly 90% of the votes cast in Montana were from mailed-out ballots. Turnout from voters receiving those ballots was 55% versus 12% by polling-place voters.
  • Oregon, a full vote-at-home state is also a “closed primary” state, meaning only Republicans and Democrats can participate in their respective party elections. Turnout for Republicans and Democrats both exceeded 50%. Those rates are more than double the total turnout in many states where all voters were eligible to participate.

Power of mailed-out ballots clear in May primaries

2022 primary election turnout as of June 1, 2022.
  • Oregon, a model vote-at-home state, has experienced the greatest overall turnout thus far at 37%.
  • Turnout in Nebraska’s 11 full vote-at-home counties was more than 20 percentage points higher on average than the state’s total turnout. 

With over a quarter of the 2022 primaries in the books, one trend is unmistakable: states and jurisdictions that automatically mail ballots to their voters experience higher turnout than states with more restrictive mail-ballot access.  

Oregon, with its full “vote at home” model in which all active registered voters are mailed their ballots automatically for every election, shows the highest turnout of any state to date at 37.1%. This is more than 10% higher than the average for the remaining 12 states that have held primaries to date. 

Even more striking is turnout in the Democratic and Republican primaries. Oregon is a “closed primary” state, meaning only Republicans and Democrats can participate in their respective party elections. Turnout currently stands at about 53% for Republicans and 50% for Democrats. Those rates are more than double the total turnout in many states where all voters were eligible to participate. 

“When ballots are placed directly in the hands of voters, they turn out,” said Lori Augino, executive director for National Vote at Home Institute and former Washington state elections director. “Automatically mailing a ballot to voters several weeks before the election gives them the time and convenience they need to vote, without having to overcome unnecessary barriers like requesting a mail ballot or obtaining a witness or notary signature.” 

Comparing other major “closed” primaries, the most relevant may be Pennsylvania, with several scorching statewide races in play, including the gubernatorial and Senate contests. Total turnout was well below Oregon’s, coming in at 30%, and party-specific turnout was also far less with about 39% for Republicans and 32% for Democrats. 

About 5% behind Oregon’s overall turnout and holding the second-highest primary turnout to date is Nebraska, an open-primary state with 11 counties using the vote-at-home model in which every active registered voter is automatically mailed a ballot. Those counties came in at an average 55% turnout, more than 20 percentage points higher than the statewide total. 

StateMailed-out ballot policyClosed or Open primaryTotal 2022 primary turnoutRepublican Party turnoutDemocratic Party turnout
OregonVote-at-home (VAH)Closed37%53%50%
PennsylvaniaNo-excuse absenteeClosed30%39%32%
Nebraska*No-excuse absenteeOpen33%40%29%
*NE 11 VAH counties onlyVote-at-home (VAH)Open 55%55%

Sources: Secretaries of state websites and published media reports.

Almost a third of the states had lower than 20% turnout. 

All except North Carolina require voters to have an excuse to obtain a mailed-out ballot, and North Carolina’s witness/notary requirements create an additional obstacle for people to vote using mail ballots. 

StateMailed-out ballot policyTotal 2022 primary turnout
IndianaExcuse required14.0%
TexasExcuse required 19.0%
KentuckyExcuse required 19.0%
North CarolinaNo-excuse absentee, but requires two witnesses or a notary 19.7%

Sources: Secretaries of state websites and published media reports.

“The key difference between these states and those with greater turnout are their policies on access to mailed-out ballots,” said Augino. “Unfortunately, these states impose additional barriers to voters in obtaining mail ballots, which makes voting less convenient and ultimately discourages participation.”