The rise in popularity of vote-by-mail ballots means the winners of Tuesday’s elections likely will be determined before the polls even open. In recent years, as many as 70 percent of voters opted to pay for a stamp rather than find time to use a voting booth. Such early voting has been on the rise for several years, made even easier when California eliminated the fiction of the absentee ballot, which required voters to sign an affidavit saying they wouldn’t be present on election day.
The shift to the early voting has transformed the election calendar and prompted savvy campaigns to reconsider the timing of political hit pieces and voter outreach efforts. But despite the convenience, the rise of vote-by-mail doesn’t necessarily improve participation.
Experts have mixed opinions on whether the option of voting at home will actually inspire people to cast a ballot. And at least one study of California’s election patterns shows offering the option of voting by mail does little to increase turnout in presidential and gubernatorial elections.