August 16, 2019 10:35:23 AM
An alternative to tightening down on absentee ballots
What if, instead of tightening down, Mississippi loosened up?
What if, instead of having people running around trying to get people to sign up for an absentee ballot, and then trying to influence their vote, every active registered voter got their ballot delivered to them, automatically, a few weeks before Election Day, and had multiple ways to return it (US Mail, 24x7 secure drop boxes, staffed vote centers for those who needed assistance or needed accessibility options).
Well, we actually know the answer, because that is how elections work for all citizens in Colorado, Oregon, Utah, Washington, Hawaii in 2020 and most of California's voters in 2020. It's called "Vote at Home." Arizona and Montana follow a similar path with about 70% of their voters signed up for "permanent absentee." Nebraska will have 11 counties on the 100% vote at home model for 2020. North Dakota does this for 30 counties, too. And these states show no higher, and often lower incidence of election shenanigans, per the Heritage Foundation's research.
Notice that the states above are red, purple and blue. No political bias here when it comes to voter engagement. And speaking of engagement, Colorado, Montana, Oregon and Washington consistently see some of the highest voter turnout in the country. Utah had the largest increase between 2014 and 2018 after rolling out their "vote at home" model. A great reference on this is the Nonprofit Vote "America Goes to the Polls 2018" report. It showed three policies that drive higher voter engagement: Vote at Home, same day registration, and automatic voter registration.
In contrast, Mississippi ranked a lowly 47th in voter turnout in 2018. "Tightening down" on mailed-out ballots will not improve that result, even with an improvement in early in-person voting. While the state may not be ready to jump from its current model all the way to full "vote at home," a simple step forward would be to remove the 65+ age waiver to qualify for an "absentee" ballot, and then allow your citizens to check a box to always get their ballot delivered to them unless they move out of state or change their mind -- aka: permanent absentee.
Director of Communications & Research
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