"The ballot box will be the mailbox"

The New York Times has a report on voting by mail, one of my favorite topics: LOS ANGELES -- The first Tuesday in February, when 22 ...
by | January 15, 2008
 

The New York Times has a report on voting by mail, one of my favorite topics:

LOS ANGELES -- The first Tuesday in February, when 22 states hold primaries, may turn out to be the biggest day of the presidential campaign. But for many voters, half or more in some states, the polling place will be the kitchen table, the ballot box will be the mailbox and the choice in many cases will be made weeks before a voting machine lever is pulled.

In California, the biggest prize on Feb. 5, state election officials estimate that more than half of voters may vote by mail, which has forced campaigns to adjust their strategies and has some political observers worried that people may make hasty choices they may later regret.

There are a lot of things going on here. I've written before about how the federal Help America Vote Act has unintentionally encouraged states to reduce their polling locations and, therefore, encouraged more voting by mail. Marion County, Indiana is the latest place to do away with hundreds of precincts.

But, as the Times points out, changes to state absentee voting laws are another part of the story:

Nationwide, 31 states allow some form of early voting with "no excuse required," and analysts say interest in voting by mail has increased mainly because it is more convenient than going to, and sometimes waiting in line, at a polling place. Several states in the last decade have changed their laws to allow all voters to cast ballots by mail for any reason, as opposed to limiting it to the infirm or those who will be out of town.

(Hat tip: Rick Hasen)

It will be interesting to see whether more states will follow Oregon and Washington in moving toward exclusive mail-in voting systems.

Regardless, the partial vote-by-mail arrangement that exists today has significant implications for political strategy. The final weeks before election day used to be about courting undecided voters, but now, just as much, they're about persuading decided voters to send in their ballots.

Josh Goodman
Josh Goodman  |  Former Staff Writer
mailbox@governing.com

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