One of the most common myths promulgated by the right is the idea that Vote-By-Mail is a ploy by the left to steal elections. However, the great state of Utah has had Vote-By-Mail for a number of years and yet it remains in Republican hands. The article, ‘Does vote-by-mail favor Democrats? Utah begs to differ, plus other mistruths about mail voting‘, by Reid J. Epstein and Stephanie Saul and as reprinted by The Salt Lake Tribune, bursts this fallacy.
Amelia Showalter, who was the data analytics director for former President Barack Obama’s 2012 campaign, found in deeply reported studies of all-mail elections in Colorado in 2014 and Utah in 2016 that there were very slight partisan advantages in each race.Epstein, Reid J. and Saul, Stephanie, “Does vote-by-mail favor Democrats? Utah begs to differ, plus other mistruths about mail voting.” The Salt Lake Tribune 10 April 2020 online.
As found in states like Utah and Colorado, the effect is small and tends to balance out. My friend and fellow cosplayer Amelia Showalter (she cosplays an incredible Starbucks Mermaid!) points out that there may be some benefits to Democrats, but there are indeed advantages to Republicans.
The truth is that for folks in Rural communities, where polling places are few and far between, Vote-By-Mail is a huge advantage as it doesn’t require a long drive to the perhaps one polling place in the county. If anything, the most disadvantaged by Vote-By-Mail is with some minorities, who don’t necessarily trust the postal system. This is why, at least in urban areas with greater ethnic diversity, having some traditional polling places is still a good idea. Alas, many states like to close the urban polling places making it all that much harder for poor minorities to vote.
This issue doesn’t manifest as sharply in the Western states which have Vote-By-Mail because their ethnic diversity is much lower than in states like Virginia. While Utah has a mere 1% African-American population, and Oregon and Washington merely 3%, Virginia’s population is about 20%. Even Colorado at 10% isn’t quite the best proxy for the average Southern State. This is why it’s important even with Vote-By-Mail to allow in-person voting for anyone wishing to do so, at least in those more ethnically diverse states farther East.
The biggest argument, however, is when we see that Utah is a generally Republican state and yet remains so, even with Vote-By-Mail. Clearly, postal voting works for Republicans. Otherwise we wouldn’t see the Republican majorities in Utah that we do.
Showalter found the biggest turnout difference in all-mail elections came among people who were the least likely to vote. These voters tend to pay the least attention to politics and are the most ideologically flexible.Epstein, Reid J. and Saul, Stephanie, “Does vote-by-mail favor Democrats? Utah begs to differ, plus other mistruths about mail voting.” The Salt Lake Tribune 10 April 2020 online.
The greatest advantage, however, is to enfranchise the forty to fifty percent in non-battleground states and the thirty to forty percent in battleground states. Too many Americans are non-voters so anything we can do, like make it as easy as getting an SASE from the State and posting back your ballot, will make this nation a better Democratic Republic.
The best way to ensure that every vote equal is to have one person, one letter, one vote.
UPDATE 11 May 2020: Updated to better reflect that Vote-By-Mail helps both parties for the most part equally thanks to input from Amelia.