Rep. Dickey Lee Hullinghorst (D-Colo.) thought an all-mail election sounded like a bad idea when she heard Oregon was mailing out ballots to every voter during the2000 election. “It was a traditional thing for me—I liked to go to my polling place on Election Day,” she said. A little more than a decade later, Hullinghorst was one of four legislators who sponsored HB 1303, a 2013 bill that made Colorado the third state to have all-mail elections or vote-by-mail elections. Hullinghorst, majority leader in the Colorado House, said the success of vote-by-mail elections in Oregon and Washington convinced her that Colorado was ready to make the change in 2013. And it wasn’t much of a leap for a state that previously permitted jurisdictions to hold all-mail elections, excluding general elections. More than 74 percent of voters in Colorado chose to cast a mail ballot in the 2012 general election, according to the Colorado County Clerks Association. While Oregon, Washington and Colorado are the only states that automatically mail to every registered voter a ballot and do not run traditional in-person voting precincts, voters in many other states have experienced some form of a vote-by-mail election.
All-mail elections are at one end in a voting method spectrum, no-excuse absentee voting is in the middle of that range and traditional Election Day voting is at its opposite end. At least 22 states allow certain elections to be conducted entirely via vote-by-mail. The kinds of jurisdictions that use all-mail elections vary. Some states have leaned on the voting method to address a shortfall in elections resources. In Idaho, a county with a precinct that has no more than 125 registered voters can use all-mail elections. Some states, such as Hawaii, which has some of the lowest turnout rates in the country, allow jurisdictions to use vote-by-mail for local and special elections as a way to boost voter participation.
Supporters of vote-by-mail say allowing a person to cast their votes from the comfort of their living room or kitchen table can reduce the costs of recruiting and training workers for polling places. It also frees administrators from the sometimes onerous task of finding suitable polling locations.
Opponents contend that vote-by-mail has not proven to have a large impact on turnout, that savings are nullified by increased postage costs and that receiving a ballot back from a voter is not as secure as Election Day voting.
Full Article: States and Election Reform | The Canvass: July 2014.