Our voting system is flawed. Why can’t Americans just vote by mail?
A change that simultaneously increases voter participation, saves millions of dollars and makes the postal service relevant again would seem to be what public finances and America’s civic health need. But when it comes to voting by mail, even with a decade-long track record, states seem to be saying, “Not so fast.”
In January, Montana decided not to join the exclusive club of vote-by-mail states. A plan to make the switch died early in the legislative session when 15 House members reversed their votes and killed the bill.
The promise of saving $2 million each election cycle by eliminating polling places and poll workers — while also enhancing voter protection and participation — could not overcome a flurry of last-minute calls from constituents expressing to legislators their concerns about security.
The Center for Democracy and Election Management at American University reports that 37 states allow some form of convenience balloting (no-excuse absentee and early voting), including 13 that allow all-mail voting under certain limited circumstances. Only Oregon and Washington are so-called universal vote-by-mail states, conducting elections entirely by post.
So why aren’t more states adopting all-mail voting? Little research exists about the merits of universal vote-by-mail, especially about the links, if any, between voting method and voter participation.