Voting by Mail Pros and Cons

The explosive rise in mail-in voting has touched off a largely partisan debate about its efficacy and susceptibility to abuse and fraud. This article examines the pros and cons of voting by mail.

At least 180 million Americans were eligible to cast their ballots by mail in the 2020 general election. This was more than three-fourths of the total electorate. This was mainly due to the COVID-19 pandemic. But now that so many registered voters know how convenient it is to vote by mail, election officials expect the number to remain higher than in previous decades.

Voters must understand the vote-by-mail process. You should know your voting rights. Here, we'll explain how the vote-by-mail system works. We'll also answer many FAQs about how you can vote using this method.

An Explosive Rise in Mail-In Voting

During the COVID-19 pandemic, when it wasn't safe to visit polling places in person, officials expanded the availability of mail-in voting in many states. As a result, most states and the District of Columbia allowed mail-in voting and eased their rules for mail voting/absentee voting. Many states have kept these more lenient rules for voting absentee or by mail.

As of 2024, five states conduct all elections via mail. These include:

  • Colorado
  • Hawaii
  • Oregon
  • Utah
  • Washington

Three more states offer the option of mail elections. These are California, Nebraska, and North Dakota. Nine more states allow vote-by-mail in at least some of their state elections. These states include:

  • Alaska
  • Arizona
  • Florida
  • Kansas
  • Maryland
  • Missouri
  • Montana
  • New Mexico
  • Wyoming

Besides the states we listed above, several states offer no-excuse absentee ballots and vote-by-mail. These include:

  • District of Columbia
  • Georgia
  • Idaho
  • Illinois
  • Iowa
  • Maine
  • Michigan
  • Minnesota
  • Nevada
  • New Jersey
  • North Carolina
  • Ohio
  • Oklahoma
  • Pennsylvania
  • Rhode Island
  • South Dakota
  • Vermont
  • Virginia
  • Wisconsin

Officials at the election offices are well-versed in the rules on absentee ballot applications and vote-by-mail options. If you have questions about your right to vote using these methods, contact a local voter registration office or submit your ballot request. Include a return envelope with your request. You can also submit your ballot using local ballot drop boxes.

The Debate: A Necessity or a Risk?

Proponents of mail-in voting say mail-in ballots were necessary during the COVID-19 pandemic. They also claim a track record of successful voting by mail in states like Oregon and Washington. These states have offered universal mail-in voting for years without difficulty.

Opponents of mail-in voting argue that there have been problems with mail-in voting, especially for primary elections. They have questions about whether election officials can handle the increase in mail-in ballots.

Pros of Mail-In Voting

Both sides of the vote-by-mail debate have reasons supporting their claims. Election administrators and officials who argue for more voting by mail have given several reasons it is a good idea.

Some of the reasons cited by proponents of mail-in voting include:

  • Mail-in voting will save lives by allowing people to avoid polling sites.
  • Reduction in mail-ballot fraud. The conservative Heritage Foundation examined the record in Oregon. The state has used mail elections since 1998. They found 14 cases of attempted mail fraud out of 15.5 million ballots cast. This is an incredibly low incidence of voting fraud compared with the potential for fraud with traditional voting methods.
  • Mail-in voting increases voter participation.Stanford University study found that voting turnout increased by 2% in states with vote-by-mail options.
  • There is no evidence to suggest that voting by mail favors one party over another. The Stanford study found that the increase in voting changed the amount of voting but not the composition of eligible voters. It didn't favor any racial, age, or economic groups.
  • It creates better-informed voters by allowing voters more time to consider their votes, increasing down-ballot engagement. This is as compared with in-person voting.
  • Mail-in voting reduces the cost of recruiting and training poll workers. This allows local election officials and county election officials to focus on other problems.
  • It eases the task of finding suitable polling locations.

Cons of Mail-In Voting

Just as staunch mail-in voting supporters cite this system's benefits, opponents also raise concerns.

Some of the potential cons of allowing voting by mail include:

  • Voter registration rolls can be inaccurate. In January 2020, the State of California and the County of Los Angeles agreed to remove up to 1.5 million inactive names from voter registration lists to settle a lawsuit brought by the conservative organization Judicial Watch. Sending ballots to people who died or moved away lends itself to potential fraud.
  • Casting ballots outside the public eye may allow for voter impersonation and coercion.
  • Although supporters say fraud is rare, the likelihood of voter fraud may be somewhat higher with mail ballots.
  • Voters often cast mail ballots well ahead of Election Day. Early voting causes voters to miss significant campaign developments that may have otherwise influenced their votes.
  • The 2020 state primaries cast doubt on how effectively the board of elections can manage voting by mail.
  • More things can go wrong with mail-in ballots. Voters must receive and return their ballots on time. Even if election officials get ballots on time, they may reject them for various reasons. For example, in the 2016 presidential election, officials failed to count an estimated 4% of mailed ballots.

Whether you believe mail-in voting is a good idea depends on your experiences. It may also depend on which party you affiliate with.

You Don't Have To Solve This on Your Own – Get a Lawyer's Help

Every U.S. citizen has specific voting rights. If you believe someone has violated your rights, contact an experienced civil rights lawyer. They can help explain your rights and determine how to protect them.

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