Showing up to election polls can be difficult. There’s generally a long line and an even longer waiting time. Then you rush to fill out a ballot before you have to get to work or pick up your kids from school.
Brendon Martin, a junior political science major, voted in the recent Virginia elections on Nov. 5. He votes via absentee ballot, which is a mail-in ballot people have to request if they will be unable to go to the polls on election day.
“There’s like 30 different reasons you can have for voting absentee, but it’s super easy to fill it out,” Martin said. “Then all you have to do is get a witness to sign it, showing that you made your decisions of your own accord and knew what you were doing.”
Unlike Martin, most Virginians are not voting by mail, according to the U.S. Election Assistance Commission. The opposite is true in San Francisco County where 66% of voters sent in their ballots by mail in 2018. In the 2016 general election, 41% of all U.S. voters cast their ballots before election day.
A system used by Oregon since 1998, where all voters receive a ballot by mail but are still able to cast one in person, has a positive impact on voter turnout, according to a 2007 study published by the American Political Science Institute. The study also found that the states with the highest percentage of early voting are the most rural states because voters often have long commutes to work or to polling locations.
There is a common concern about early voting by mail due to beliefs that absentee ballots may not be returned or counted. “Nationally, 80.1% of absentee ballots transmitted to voters were returned, and most states reported that over 90% of absentee ballots ‘returned and submitted for counting’ were ultimately counted in the 2016 General Election,” stated the 2016 Election Administration and Voting Survey, to address the issue.
“Absentee ballots are usually mailed more than a month before each election, giving you plenty of time to decide on your choices and mail your ballot back to the County Election Board so it arrives before polls close on Election Day,” states the Oklahoma State Election Board on their website.
Good citizens often exercise the right to vote, so out of state students can utilize the choice of absentee ballots in the upcoming 2020 presidential election.