Vote-By-Mail Opportunities

Background:

Currently in Texas an eligible voter can vote by mail if they meet one of the following criteria:

  • are 65 years or older;
  • have a disability;
  • will be out of the county on Election Day or during early voting; or
  • are confined in jail.

To vote by mail in Texas a voter must obtain an application, fill in the information, sign and date it, put it in an envelope, add postage, and mail it to the Early Voting Clerk in their county by the 7th business day before Election Day. A voter must do this before each election to receive a ballot by mail.

While all states offer some form of absentee balloting to certain voters, many states are adopting models that expand vote by mail opportunities. Due to the success of vote by mail measures, Oregon and Washington conduct all of their elections completely by mail.

No-Excuse Vote By Mail allows any registered voter the opportunity to request an absentee ballot without requiring that voter state a reason for his/her desire to vote absentee. There are currently 32 states that allow no-excuse absentee voting.

Permanent Absentee Ballot Status allows voters to request permanent absentee status and automatically receive a ballot for each state election without having to request one before each election. Most states with this system in place allow the status to continue indefinitely until an individual fails to vote in two consecutive statewide general elections. This model is working successfully in many states including: Arizona, California, Colorado, DC, Hawaii, Montana, New Jersey, Utah, Alaska, Delaware, Kansas, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Missouri and West Virginia.

Benefits of Voting By Mail:

  • Saves taxpayer dollars -- Vote by Mail allows Election Offices the opportunity to simplify management systems, hire fewer poll-site workers, and purchase fewer voting machines (since polling sites for the latter could be consolidated). Oregon has found the cost of conducting all-mail elections is 1/3 to 1/2 of the amount required for polling place elections.
  • Contributes to election integrity - All-mail voting results in an all-paper ballot system which contributes significantly to election integrity. Ballots are more secure since they require signature verification. Several Election Officials in Texas stated in testimony during the 80th Legislative Session that matching signatures ensures no ballot fraud has taken place. Additionally, many states are using automatic signature verification machines which remove human error and improve voter secrecy requirements.
  • Increases voter turnout - Studies have shown that states that allow a larger percentage of their eligible voters the opportunity to vote by have a larger voter participation rate. Allowing voters to complete and mail the ballot on her/his own schedule eliminates election-day conflicts with jobs, school, emergencies, meetings, child care, etc. It also reduces the inconvenience of polling hours, lines, transportation, traffic, parking, weather, etc.
  • Facilitates thoughtful study of the issues -- When a voter receives a ballot in the mail they are given more of an opportunity to study the candidates or the issues before they vote. This is particularly helpful when there are numerous complicated measures on a ballot.
  • Helps Election Officials maintain accurate voter lists - Voter lists are much easier to accurately maintain with mail balloting. This is because ballots that are returned to election officials as undeliverable highlight registrations that must be checked. This helps election officials purge their registration rolls of ineligible voters.

Common Cause of Texas encourages the State of Texas to adopt Permanent Absentee Ballot Status and No-Excuse Vote by Mail measures.

Common Cause of Texas stresses the need of our state to adopt measures that increase eligible voter participation. By expanding the population of Texans that are eligible to vote by mail, the state can decrease the cost of the administration of elections, ensure greater participation by eligible voters, and maintain more accurate voter registration lists.

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