Vote-by-Mail in the United States has been on the rise for some time. At least 34 states, as well as the District of Columbia, allow voters to send their ballot in the mail, and four states – Colorado, Hawaii, Oregon and Washington – conduct all elections by mail. Furthermore, some states allow counties to opt into conducting all elections by mail. As states extend no excuse vote-by-mail, legislation is making its way through state houses nationwide to ensure that postal voting is adopted in a manner that ensures the integrity and spread that an election warrants.
Increased relevance for Vote-by-Mail
News headlines about 'social distancing' ensure that gathering in large numbers to cast a vote is less appealing than doing so from the comfort of your own home. Vote-by-Mail is being spoken about as a viable way to conduct the 2020 Presidential Elections. Legislation recently introduced by the senior Senator for Oregon, Sen. Ron Wyden, would require every state in the country to conduct the November election entirely by mail in the event that a quarter of the states declare a state-of-emergency due to either infectious disease or natural disaster.
The axis has arguably already begun to tilt away from voting in person. In Wyoming, for example, the Democratic Party canceled in-person voting in the April 4th primary in favor of a pick-up and drop off system, while Wisconsin opted to send mail-in ballots for residents of nursing homes rather than continue with in-person voting assistance. In the recent Illinois primary, the promotion of early voting reaped dividends, with 118,000 people requesting ballots, a record since World War II.
The ongoing crisis has highlighted the need for more legislation allowing Vote-by-Mail. 17 states only allow voters to cast their vote-by-mail by giving a specific excuse – on New York's absentee ballot request form, there are only six acceptable reasons. Voting advocates suggest that governors issue executive orders to allow voters to cast a mail-in ballot in November, and this has indeed begun with Connecticut, Alabama and Ohio making moves to loosen requirements. Allowing people to vote from home using mail balloting can improve voter turnout and increase engagement in the democratic process.
Security, integrity and transparency.
Although a further shift to Vote-by-Mail could be in the offing, any electoral solution still needs to demonstrate the maximum possible security to retain the integrity of elections. End-to-end Vote-by-Mail solutions need to guarantee that the correct ballot is being placed into the correct envelope and sent to the correct address. But it's not simply a question of tracking the envelope. Counties and states have to be certain that each mailpiece includes every page it is supposed to, and that the envelopes going out and coming back are consistent, right down to the thickness of the envelope. And when the ballot is returned, it is checked against the voter registration file to check the signature
Using Vote-by-Mail also creates a digital audit trail, providing transparency, both for the officials running the election, and for the voters themselves.
Ensure voter confidence
Due to the pandemic, many constituents in the "at risk" demographic, including seniors and individuals with a compromised immune system, will likely chose to not vote rather than put themselves at risk by going to the polls. "No voter should have to choose between exercising their constitutional right and putting their health at risk," according to Senator Wyden. Voting by mail helps eliminate large crowds and lines at the polls. And, with innovative ballot processing technology, voters can be assured they are getting the correct ballot, and even be able to verify their ballot has been returned to be counted. There has never been a better time to take advantage of voting by mail.
Saving taxpayer money
Not only does Vote-by-Mail offer benefits to the election official and voter, there is also a significant upside for taxpayers. A lot of time, effort and money goes into in-person voting - opening polling locations, deploying voting machines, drop boxes, printing lasers, workers, training, scheduling, and forensics systems for tracking ballots. Increased absentee voting means there is a reduction in these costs, with less of a need to hire large numbers of temporary workers who find themselves working in close proximity with one another –a great concern at this time.
The November 2020 election is expected to be a high-turnout election. Giving the electorate the opportunity to cast their vote without needing to find the time to drive to a polling station and wait in line can help mitigate the risk of low turnout in a time of uncertainty for everybody.
BlueCrest Relia-Vote has been helping election officials manage the growing volumes of ballots with end-to-end security and auditing controls, productivity ensuring critical timelines are met, reducing the traditional costs and risk of managing manual ballot processing with integrity solutions.