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Safeguarding Our Democracy with Vote by Mail

Increasingly, we are seeing calls for states to adopt no-excuse absentee and vote by mail.

This is a very important step in ensuring the right to vote, particularly in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. However, as with any method of voting, there are safeguards that are necessary to prevent voter disenfranchisement.

The Four Pillars to safeguard vote by mail are, at a minimum, what states should implement to ensure that eligible voters may fully participate in the election this November.

One thing that all states share going into the 2020 general election is the extent to which the COVID-19 outbreak will change the way Americans vote. The impacts of the COVID-19 virus will affect voters, government officials, and volunteer poll workers alike. See how your state is safeguarding your mail ballot in our 50-state report.

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CARES Act: Election Security Grants

The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (“CARES Act”), enacted in April 2020, created a process for the states to obtain election security grants.

The Act allocated $400 million to the U.S. Election Assistance Commission (“EAC”) to make payments to states to prevent, prepare for, and respond to coronavirus impacts on the 2020 federal election cycle. The guidance surrounding the various requirements of the Act—including implementing the Matching Requirement—has confused some state election officials.

We created an explainer to discuss the permissible uses of this grant by states and the framework for funds in more detail.

Additional Resources

Young Voters VBM Rejection Rate

August 12, 2020

A paper published in April 2020,  “Voting by Mail and Ballot Rejection: Lessons from Florida for Elections in the Age of the Coronavirus,” showed the existing problems with voting by mail that will likely be exacerbated by the pandemic. The study examined over 8.2 million ballots cast in the 2018 Florida General Election. 2.6 million voters voted by mail, of which 1.2 percent were rejected by local election officials.

The researchers found that younger voters, voters with disabilities and Hispanics were disproportionately more likely to have their ballot rejected. For example, the rejection rate of mail ballots cast by 18-21-year-olds was 5.4%, while 65+ voters had only a .6% rejection rate.

VBM Rejection Rates in Georgia’s 2018 Election

August 12, 2020

A study published in May 2020 entitled, “Voting by Mail in a VENMO World: Assessing Rejected Absentee Ballots in Georgia” merged Georgia’s statewide voter files with county-level U.S. Census Bureau data to analyze vote by mail ballot rejections in the 2018 Election. The researchers found that “newly registered, young, female, and minority voters have rejection rates that are higher compared to their counterparts, varying from 4 to 7 percentage points.” These findings show that not all absentee ballots are treated equally, and this problem will only be exacerbated by COVID-19.