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Democrats want mail-in-voting to go nationwide

By Sarah May
|
March 12, 2023

A pair of Democrats from Oregon this week introduced a bill that would permit everyone voting in federal elections the ability to cast their ballot by mail or at a designated drop-off site, in a move proponents suggest would bolster election security and increase participation, as Fox News reports.

The Vote at Home Act, brought forward by Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) and Democratic Rep. Earl Blumenauer (OR-03) is an update of the Vote By Mail bill first introduced by the duo back in 2017. as a press release from the congressman's office notes.

Vote at Home Act introduced

According to the aforementioned press release, the Vote at Home Act would provide all registered voters with ballots by mail in the weeks leading up to Election Day, allowing sufficient time for careful research and consideration of the candidates.

The proposal would also allow voters to cast ballots either by mail or by utilizing an official drop-off site, though anyone living in a state with in-person, same-day voter registration would still have the option of voting at a polling place.

Another feature of the bill is that it would designate additional funding for the United States Postal Service to cover the increased costs involved with the mailing of ballots to and from the electorate during times when federal elections are held.

Lastly, the proposal would enable automatic voter registration for all citizens who provide identification at state motor vehicle agencies, with a 21-day “opt-out” period built in for those not wishing to register.

Oregon model touted

In promoting the claimed benefits of the mail-in voting scheme, Wyden and Blumenauer pointed to the experience of their home state in expanding the ways in which citizens can vote.

“Oregon has led the nation in defending the right to vote, which is the very cornerstone of democracy,” Blumenauer stated. “Vote at home laws have been extremely successful at increasing voter turnout all while upholding strong security standards.”

The congressman continued, “This critical legislation will bring Oregon's model nationwide and strengthen the fundamental right to vote that is so central to our democratic process.”

Wyden concurred, adding, “The United States is stronger when more Americans can vote. Our bill will make elections more accessible to seniors, students, and working families that might not have time to wait at a polling station. Voting at home makes elections more secure as well, since there's a built-in paper trail for every single ballot that can't be hacked. Voting at home is just common sense.”

A Republican dilemma

As Wyden and Blumenauer's press release noted, in the November 2020 election approximately 50% of voters cast ballots from home, and in 2022, roughly 35% of voters did so, despite the fact that the emergency needs cited during the pandemic had largely subsided.

The success of Democrats in promoting mail-in voting in recent years has left Republicans – long resistant to the concept due to election integrity concerns – with a significant dilemma in terms of whether they should continue to oppose expansion of voting from home or sign on to the trend and master the process, as the Daily Signal noted last fall.

J. Christian Adams, president of the Public Interest Legal Foundation, told the outlet that while mail-in voting is not good policy, it is popular with the citizenry, and therefore election integrity watchdogs must do everything possible to ensure that it is as fair and honest as it can be.

“The reality is that voters seem to like [voting by mail], and it's a fantasy to think it will disappear,” Adams opined, adding that 'the idea that Republicans vote on Election Day and Democrats vote early is not sustainable in the long run for Republicans.”

Internal debate persists

While there are those in the Republican Party who believe that, given Democrats' head start in coordinating successful mail-in voting initiatives and outreach, it is past time for conservatives to start aggressively doing the same, not everyone is in agreement.

Newsweek's Josh Hammer, for his part, called for the entire concept of mail-in balloting to be eliminated, tweeting in the wake of the 2022 midterms, “Republicans, end the vote-by-mail/ballot-harvesting regime or cease to be a major political party.”

Jason Snead of the Honest Elections Project, however, suggested that there is a possible middle ground, noting, “There is something to be said for accepting the world as it is, not as we would want it to be. Try to compete in the [mail-in voting] states based on their rules and then try to make reforms to the process.”

In the meantime, considering the divided nature of the current Congress, it is far from certain that the Vote at Home Act will succeed in gaining traction, but that is not to say that the trends in voting seen over the past few years can safely be ignored by either side.