States that send a mail ballot to every voter really do increase turnout, scholars find

Thursday, October 12, 2023

King County mail in ballots ready to be counted
Photo courtesy King County Elections
From The Washington Daily Standard

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.

“[T]o a remarkable degree, most of the nation’s leading journalists, democracy reform organizations, and elected officials continue to largely ignore, downplay — or even dismiss outright – the potentially profound implications of these noticeably high turnout rates,” said a research paper released last month by the National Vote at Home Institute, which advocates for increased use of mail voting.

Currently, eight states — California, Colorado, Hawaii, Nevada, Oregon, Utah, Vermont, and Washington — use UVM.


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