Vote-by-Mail Does Not Advantage Either Party, Study Says

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A San Mateo County, California, mail-in ballot
Source: btwashburn, “Vote by Mail,” flickr.com, Feb. 6, 2020

While the availability of vote-by-mail ballots increases voter turnout by 1.9 to 2.4 percentage points, the voting method does not increase the share of turnout for either Democrats or Republicans, according to researchers.

A study by Stanford University’s Democracy and Polarization Lab compared counties with vote-by-mail programs to those without in the same state. The authors concluded that vote-by-mail programs have “no discernible effect on party vote shares or the partisan share of the electorate.”

Five states have all-mail elections: Colorado, Hawaii, Oregon, Utah, and Washington. According to Ballotpedia, 29 states and DC allow voters to cast an absentee ballot for any reason, while 16 states require a valid excuse for requesting to mail in a ballot.

During the COVID-19 (coronavirus) pandemic, concerns about the safety of in-person polling places have been raised for the 2020 federal election in November, as well as for  summer primary elections. At least 40 people who voted at the Milwaukee polls in Wisconsin’s Apr. 7, 2020 primary election have tested positive for coronavirus, raising concerns that voters were forced to put their health at risk to participate in the election.

On Apr. 24, 2020, the governors of New York and Kentucky signed executive orders requiring that every resident be sent an application for vote-by-mail ballots for the states’ summer elections.

Concerns about vote-by-mail ballots exist on both sides of the aisle. President Donald Trump tweeted on Apr. 8, 2020, “Republicans should fight very hard when it comes to state wide mail-in voting. Democrats are clamoring for it. Tremendous potential for voter fraud, and for whatever reason, doesn’t work out well for Republicans.”

Brian Dunn, Founder of Deliver My Vote and former Obama campaign member, stated, “There is justified concern that Democratic-leaning voters may be disadvantaged through vote-by-mail systems. People like caregivers, gig-sector employees or those working multiple jobs may not update their address as they move, causing them to lose their ability to vote safely and easily.”

Joe Biden tweeted in support of vote-by-mail on Apr. 21, 2020, saying, “We need to immediately expand vote-by-mail, online voter registration, and early voting to ensure everyone can safely exercise their right to participate in our electoral process.”

According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, possible advantages of vote-by-mail include voter confidence, financial savings, and turnout. Possible disadvantages include disparate effect on minority voters, security concerns, and slow vote counting.

To see the 2020 candidates’ opinions on vote-by-mail, visit ProCon.org’s 2020 Election site.

Discussion Questions – Things to Think About
1. Should the federal government implement vote-by-mail for presidential elections? Explain your answer.

2. Should states make vote-by-mail ballots available to every resident for every election? Why or why not?

3. What are other changes to the election process you would like to see? Explain the advantages of your proposed change(s).

Sources:

Ballotpedia, “Absentee Voting,” ballotpedia.com (accessed Apr. 27, 2020)

Joe Biden, Twitter.com, Apr. 21, 2020

Zack Budryk, “Study Finds Universal Vote-by-Mail Doesn’t Provide Advantage to Either GOP or Democrats,” thehill.com, Apr. 16, 2020

Reid J. Epstein and Stephanie Saul, “Does Vote-by Mail Favor Democrats? No. It’s a False Argument by Trump.,”nytimes.com, Apr. 10, 2020

Jill J. Karofsky, “I’m the Judge Who Won in Wisconsin. This Principle Is More Important Than Winning.,” nytimes.com, Apr. 27, 2020

Graham Kilmer, “At Least 40 COVID-19 Cases Tied to Election in Milwaukee,” urbanmilwaukee.com, Apr. 24, 2020

National Conference of State Legislatures, “All-Mail Elections (aka Vote-by-Mail),” ncsl.org, Apr. 24, 2020

Daniel M. Thompson, et al., “The Neutral Partisan Effects of Vote-by-Mail: Evidence from County-Level Roll-Outs,” andrewbenjaminhall.com, Apr. 15, 2020

Donald Trump, Twitter.com, Apr. 8, 2020

Anya van Wagtendonk, “New York and Kentucky Just Made It Easier to Vote by Mail,” vox.com, Apr. 25, 2020