Following last year’s devastating attacks on voters’ access to democracy, conservatives have held true to their mission to make voting harder in a number of states. Thankfully, in response to previous threats, progressive advocates and legislators came together this year to support a proactive, positive agenda for reform. As a result of coordinated campaigns, many states were successful in passing legislation that protects the right of eligible citizens to register and vote.
Many states are moving toward voting by mail: Oregon requires all elections to be conducted by mail, and Colorado, Florida, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico and Washington state allow voting by mail at some level. California and West Virginia have also enacted legislation allowing counties the option of conducting special elections entirely by mail.
Conservatives wasted no time in exploiting their numeric advantages following historic gains in state legislatures during the 2010 midterm elections, particularly in the area of voting rights. Of the over 285 election reform bills enacted in 47 states in 2011, the majority were passed in conservative-dominated legislatures and will serve to restrict access to the polls in time for the 2012 election. In addition to the passage of well-publicized voter ID legislation, successful rollbacks to existing laws, including shortening early voting periods and eliminating same day registration, will mainly serve to benefit conservative candidates at the public’s expense.
In May 2011, PSN put together a summary of mail voting studies to date, synthesizing information on turnout, impact on various demographics, security and fraud. Information pertains to no-excuse absentee voting, permanent absentee voting, and all-mail elections.
This detailed 50-state scorecard from Rock The Vote ranks evaluated state voting laws with an on a 21-point scale that aims to assess how well states are serving young voters in three categories: voter registration, ease of casting a ballot, and encouraging young voter participation.
As pundits attempt to digest what Colorado's primary on Tuesday night means for incumbents and insurgents alike, there is one thing everyone can agree on: voting by mail saved counties much-needed money while boosting turnout.