Benefits of Mail-in Voting

May 25, 2022

Voting by mail is often particularly convenient for many people, as many miss the opportunity to submit their ballot due to a lack of transport, work commitments, or family responsibilities.

Mail-in voting might be relatively new, but it has grown substantially in popularity since the first mainstream mail-in voting trial in California in 1977, with additional alternatives such as digital or online voting coming to fruition in order to broaden voter participation.

Diverse voting methods strengthen the US democracy, breaking down access barriers that might otherwise exclude voters from making their voices heard.

The Benefits of Mail-in Voting Versus Traditional Polling

Offering the option to vote by mail isn't just in the electorate's best interests, but it can work wonders for efficiency and cost management. Voting by mail is cost-effective and easier to manage with ballots and instructions sent out in advance of election days, and collating responses allows election officials to maintain accurate voting lists and refresh out-of-date voter information.

We can review the economic advantages of mail-in voting by looking at the reality of previous events. In Oregon, vote-by-mail in special elections resulted in savings of over $1 million between 1995 and 1997. If all elections in that period had been conducted in the same manner, state officials estimate they could have saved an additional $3 million of public funds.

Does Mail-in Voting Increase Participation?

Although there are several reasons to advocate for the flexibility and inclusivity of mail-in voting, the core drive is to encourage more people to vote.

A glance at the statistics demonstrates that mail-in votes achieve this very well:

  • In Washington State, the combined average voter attendance in state primaries was 38%. After switching to mail-in ballots, the same counties recorded 53% participation.
  • More than 53.7% of voters in Oregon choose to submit a ballot via mail when both in-person and mail-in voting is available. 
  • New Hampshire is the second-highest state for mail-in votes, with 45% opting to send in their ballot rather than voting in person.
  • California saw voter turnout improve by 4% when it sent a mail ballot to every registered voter, and a 9% improvement in participation from residents who had previously voted in person.

In the post-pandemic world, votes cast by mail have become even more meaningful.

Vulnerable citizens, carers, and those with an underlying health condition may have little choice about voting at a polling station, making a mail-in ballot crucial for access to official elections for a significant proportion of people. Inclusivity is essential to voter confidence, and it is often the more marginalized groups that are unable to participate when conventional ballots require in-person attendance.

Offering alternatives, such as mail-in ballots, ensures that an election's outcome is fair and representative of the diverse communities within the voter pool, rather than only those with the resources to travel in order to cast their vote.

The Advantages of Mail-in Votes for Election Administrators

Producing and posting ballots is a highly cost-effective route and sensible use of election budgets, particularly where resources are tight.

In local elections and primaries, a mail-in ballot can make every election more successful, with greater community engagement and lower management costs, removing the need for:

  • Recruitment of in-person polling workers
  • Issuing voting notices
  • Distribution of supplies for election day
  • Employment costs for polling stations
  • Utility expenses
  • Charges for polling place leases
  • Time and costs for set-up and tear-downs
  • Repair and maintenance of voting machines

Mail-in Ballots Improve Voter Trust 

Along with all the factors we've already looked at, trust and transparency are beyond vital–for voters, officials, and the representatives elected into positions of power. Mail balloting removes the pressure to make a quick decision.

Voters can study the ballot, research each candidate, and take their time to make an informed choice, helping to keep the voting public better informed and giving candidates opportunities to explain their values.

For administrators, mail-in voting avoids the potential for error in managing absentee votes and means they can update registration rolls quickly, checking off undeliverable ballots to prevent inefficiencies.

Convenient voting methods and a well-managed election process deliver benefits all around for efficient, cost-effective, and accessible voting procedures.

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