Pros & Cons of Mail-in Voting

Pros & Cons of Mail-in Voting

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The National Conference of State Legislatures has compiled lists of potential advantages and disadvantages of switching from in-person to by-mail voting: 

Advantages

  • Voter convenience and satisfaction—Citizens can vote at home and take all the time they need to study the issues. Voters often express enthusiasm for all-mail elections.

  • Financial savings—Jurisdictions may save money because they no longer need to staff traditional polling places with poll workers and equip each polling place with voting machines. A 2016 study of Colorado from the Pew Charitable Trusts found that costs decreased an average of 40% in five election administration categories after implementing vote-by-mail. 

  • Turnout—Some reports indicate that because of convenience, voter turnout increases. These reports assert that turnout increases by single digits for presidential elections and more in smaller elections. Effects on turnout can be more pronounced for low propensity voters, those that are registered but do not vote as frequently.

Disadvantages

  • Tradition—The civic experience of voting with neighbors at a local school, church, or other polling place no longer exists. 

  • Disparate effect on some populations—Mail delivery is not uniform across the nation. Native Americans on reservations in particular may have difficulty with all-mail elections. Many do not have street addresses, and their P.O. boxes may be shared. Literacy can be an issue for some voters, as well. Election materials are often written at a college level. (Literacy can be a problem for voters at traditional polling place locations too.) One way to mitigate this is to examine how voter centers are distributed throughout counties to best serve the population.  

  • Security—During all-mail elections (and absentee voting), coercion by family members or others might occur.

  • Financial considerations—All-mail elections greatly increase printing costs for an election. Additionally, jurisdictions must have appropriate equipment to read paper ballots at a central location, and changing from electronic equipment to equipment that can scan paper ballots can be expensive. 

  • Slow vote counting—All-mail elections may slow down the vote-counting process, especially if a state's policy is to allow ballots postmarked by Election Day to be received and counted in the days and weeks after the election. 

League to which this content belongs: 
Chicago