Having safe and fair elections is of great concern to states. In Colorado, one of several fully vote by mail/vote at home states, studies have shown that voters and administrators alike, no matter what their political persuasion, found enhanced trust and security in the voting process when vote at home/vote by mail is an option for voters. They also learned that voters have better down ballot engagement. (This means that voters at home are more likely to vote for each candidate on the ballot, not just for the “top of the ticket” candidates.) These benefits come in addition to the improved participation by all populations and higher voter turnouts as noted in last week’s column.
To briefly review: Colorado became a fully vote by mail state in 2013 after a decade of piloting. It is considered the gold standard for vote by mail. There voter turnout has increased by 9.4% with largest increases coming from groups that tend to have the lowest turnouts, namely those under 30, blue collar voters, voters with less education, and minority voters. Little evidence suggests that Vote by Mail voting disproportionately benefits either Republicans or Democrats. (Of the 16 states in which over 50% of citizens voted by mail in the 2016 election, 11 of them had majority Republican outcomes and 5 had majority Democrat outcomes.)
Furthermore, those watching the state election purse strings in Colorado were pleased to report that state election costs will likely be reduced by 40% over time. Also, the state projects it will be able to eliminate $100 million dollars in new equipment purchases.
Being fiscally prudent is part of state government’s job. In Indiana, we have a 52% General Election voting rate. Our primary voting rate is only 26%. This suggests that our election costs are not producing the optimal outcomes we would hope to have. During the last 20 years, the several states that have moved, and are moving, toward a statewide vote by mail system have seen significant savings in costs for elections.
Given this evidence, and given comparable results from states as varied as Utah and Oregon, it’s no wonder that other states including 10 of our Midwest neighbors are loosening rules about absentee voting (making absentee ballots “no-excuse,” for instance) and/or have begun pilot programs for Vote by Mail.
No state transitions to vote by mail/vote at home all at once. Currently North Dakota and Nebraska are running vote at home pilots in several of their counties in order to compare what happens to more traditionally voting counties.
Montgomery County adopted vote centers several years ago now, and that has been a positive upgrade in safe, assessable voting.
Maybe it’s time for Hoosiers to give the vote by mail system a trial run. Contact your state representative Tim Brown (1-800-382-9841 or 317-232-9651) or your state senator Phil Boots (1-800-382-9467 or 317-232-9400) and ask them to support legislation that will increase voter turnout, be more voter-centric and save the state money. Many such bills have been proposed during recent legislative sessions. There is citizen interest and some bipartisan support. Unfortunately these previous bills have failed to get a hearing.
Once the 2021 Indiana legislative session begins on Jan. 1, 2021, go online and visit LegisScan to read summaries of all House and Senate bills and their status. Once you are informed, let your representatives know how you feel about this and other subjects of concern. Informed voters strengthen our democratic process.
For more non-partisan information about voting from home, visit the website of Indiana Vote by Mail, a non-partisan, non-profit organization that supports improving voting practices in Indiana.
The League of Women Voters, a non-partisan, multi-issue organization encourages informed and active participation in government, works to increase public understanding of major policy issues and influences public policy through education and advocacy. All men and women are invited to join the LWV where hands-on work to safeguard democracy leads to civic improvement. For information about the League, visit the website www.lwvmontco.org or voice mail 765-361-2136.