Pandemic Journal (#18): Colorado’s Successful Voting by Mail

A previous Pandemic Journal (# 10) and seven comments thereto discussed the turmoil over Wisconsin’s April  primary election and yet its successful implementation of voting by mail so long as such votes were postmarked on or before the actual date of the election.[1]

Another state, Colorado, has had a successful system for voting by mail since 2013, as documented by a recent academic study.[2]

The study’s overall conclusion: “A huge expansion of mail voting is one way to ensure that participating in democracy won’t undermine public health.” The authors continue, “The idea of ‘all-mail voting’ is straightforward: Every registered voter gets sent a ballot via mail to their home address, then after making their choices, voters mail it back; and those who want to still travel to vote in person can do so. In the midst of this pandemic, it’s an adjustment that every state legislature should try to make.”

Our new research, published yesterday, shows that elections with all-mail voting increase turnout among everyone, especially groups that tend to vote less frequently. Those results merit permanent, wide-scale shifts. Currently, registered voters automatically get a ballot by mail in five states: Oregon, Washington, Utah, Colorado and Hawaii. A few other states have all-mail voting in small jurisdictions, and California has been gradually rolling it out.”

Our findings show, however, that low-turnout groups are the very groups that stand to benefit most from all-mail voting. Focusing on Colorado’s recent switch to vote-by-mail in 2013 and using the voter file — a comprehensive record of who turns out in American elections — we find that turnout goes up among everyone, especially the historically disenfranchised: young people, voters of color, less-educated people and blue-collar workers.”

In fact, “all-mail voting has a tremendously large effect, boosting overall voting rates in Colorado by more than 9 percentage points.” Moreover, “ youth turnout increases by 16 percentage points. Blue-collar workers see a 10 percentage-point jump in turnout. People without a high school diploma are 9.6 percentage points more likely to vote. And voters of color benefit immensely: Our research finds a 13 percentage-point turnout boost for African-Americans, a 10 percentage-point boost for Latino voters and an 11 percentage-point increase for Asian-Americans.”

In addition, with such voting, “Households with less than $10,000 in wealth see a 10 percentage-point turnout boost from all-mail voting, while the effect for those with $250,000 or more in wealth is about half that size.”

“In Colorado, a traditional swing state, ballots are mailed to all registered voters, who can then choose to mail back their completed ballot or drop it in one of many secure collection boxes. (Denver alone has about 30 throughout the city.) Or voters take it to a county vote center, staffed with personnel, to cast their ballot in person. Vote centers are open during an early voting period as well as on Election Day.”

In addition, Colorado “also allows for same-day registration. This ensures that people who miss the state’s registration deadline for mail voting can still register and vote in person. (Colorado also proactively updates voter addresses using the United States Postal Service’s National Change of Address database and, as of 2017, provides automatic voter registration throughout the state.)”

Finally, the authors state, “fraud is exceptionally rare, hard to commit without getting caught and nearly impossible to do on the scale necessary to affect election results. And because mail voting leaves behind a paper trail — which election officials can audit to verify that votes were counted as cast — it may actually be even more secure than in-person voting.”

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[1] See these entries on dwkcommentaries.com: Pandemic Journal (# 10): Wisconsin Primary Election (April 10, 2020); Comment: More Criticism of Republican Strategy of Limiting Voting (April 12, 2020); Comment: More Comments on Wisconsin Election (April 13, 2020); Comment: Surprising Results in Wisconsin Election (April 14, 2020); Comment: George F. Will’s Opinion on Voting by Mail (VBM) (April 15, 2020); Comment: Emerging Battles Over Changing State Election Laws (April 15, 2020); Comment: New York Times Editorial on Wisconsin Election (April 20, 2020); Comment: Thousands of Wisconsin Ballots Counted After Election Day (May 3, 2020).

[2] Hill, Grumbach, Bonica & Jefferson, We Should Never Have to Vote in Person Again, N.Y. Times (May 4, 2020) The authors are Charlotte Hill, a doctoral candidate at the University of California, Berkeley; Jacob Grumbach, a professor of political science at the University of Washington; and Adam Bonica and Hakeem Jefferson, both professors of political science at Stanford. Some of these points also were voiced by former Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper (now a candidate for U.S. Senate). (Hickenlooper, We’ve been voting at home for six years in Colorado. It’s time to do it nationally, Wash. Post (April 8, 2020).)

 

 

 

 

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dwkcommentaries

As a retired lawyer and adjunct law professor, Duane W. Krohnke has developed strong interests in U.S. and international law, politics and history. He also is a Christian and an active member of Minneapolis’ Westminster Presbyterian Church. His blog draws from these and other interests. He delights in the writing freedom of blogging that does not follow a preordained logical structure. The ex post facto logical organization of the posts and comments is set forth in the continually being revised “List of Posts and Comments–Topical” in the Pages section on the right side of the blog.

2 thoughts on “Pandemic Journal (#18): Colorado’s Successful Voting by Mail”

  1. Hi Duane. I’m a lawyer in Milwaukee and have a strong interest in UCA and the Jesuits in El Salvador. I’d like to explore pro bono work to help immigrants. Would you be open to a discussion, I’d like to get your thoughts on how one starts with this. Sincerely, Andy Schlidt. Aschlidt3@gmail.com

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