The participatory and partisan impacts of mandatory vote-by-mail

Policy-makers disagree on the merits of mandatory vote-by-mail. Many of these debates hinge on whether mandatory vote-by-mail advantages one political party over the other. Using a unique pairing of historical county-level data that covers the past three decades and more than 40 million voting records from the two states that have conducted a staggered rollout of mandatory vote-by-mail (Washington and Utah), researchers used several methods for causal inference to show that mandatory vote-by-mail slightly increases voter turnout but has no effect on election outcomes at various levels of government. Their results find meaning given contemporary debates about the merits of mandatory vote-by-mail. Mandatory vote-by-mail ensures that citizens are given a safe means of casting their ballot while simultaneously not advantaging one political party over the other.

Does Voting by Mail Increase Fraud? Estimating the Change in Reported Voter Fraud When States Switch to Elections By Mail

U.S. voters recently participated in the 2020 general election, which determined the next president as well as other public officials at the federal, state, and local level. While Election Day was officially Tuesday, November 3, many voters cast their ballots early—either in person or by mail. This article examines the claim that states can expect more cases of voter fraud when ballots are distributed by mail. It does not consider the consequences of early in-person voting or other challenges facing voting by mail, such as the timeliness of the U.S. Postal Service or the reporting of election results. Nor does it consider whether voters are more likely to incorrectly mark their ballots or whether election workers are more likely to incorrectly reject ballot.

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.

Colorado Voting Reforms: Early Results

Significant changes to Colorado election law necessitated an overhaul of the state’s voting process. The Voter Access and Modernized Elections Act of 2013 mandated that mail ballots be sent to every registered voter for most elections; eliminated assigned polling places while establishing voter service and polling centers where any voter in a county can cast a ballot—either early or on Election Day; authorized in person same-day registration; and shortened the state residency requirements for voter registration.

The Pew Charitable Trusts funded research on the impact of these changes, and although study of future elections is needed to better evaluate the effects, initial findings include:

  • Costs decreased by an average of 40 percent in five election administration-related categories. The 46 (of 64) counties with data available spent about $9.56 per vote in the 2014 general election, compared with nearly $16 in 2008.1
  • The use of provisional ballots declined nearly 98 percent. In the 2010 general election, voters in the state cast 39,361 provisional ballots. In 2014, that number dropped to 981.
  • Nearly two-thirds of voters in the 2014 general election said they returned their ballots in person, rather than by mail. Of these voters, almost 80 percent said it took them less than 10 minutes to get to a designated location, usually a drop box.

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.

Vote at Home Policy and Research Guide

Many states are undertaking pro-democracy reforms to improve voter access and engagement, including Same Day / Election Day (SDR / EDR) registration, online registration, automatic voter registration (AVR), and early in-person voting (EIPV). Many of these efforts have focused on engaging the electorate at the point of registration, but less so on removing barriers that prevent already-registered voters from exercising their right to actually cast their ballots. Vote at Home (VAH) focuses on removing those barriers, although full VAH states also incorporate best practices that improve voter registration and the ongoing maintenance of voter registration files.

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.

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.

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.