Sunday, June 07, 2020

Turnout surges after states expand mail-in voting

By Max Greenwood - 06/07/20 03:42 PM EDT

States that moved to rapidly expand mail-in balloting amid the coronavirus pandemic are seeing some of their highest levels of voter turnout in years, even as President Trump looks to clamp down on such efforts.

In at least four of the eight states that held primaries on Tuesday, turnout surpassed 2016 levels, with most of the votes being cast via mail, according to an analysis of election returns by The Hill. Each of those states took steps earlier this year to send absentee ballot applications to all of their registered voters.


The high turnout could encourage more states to take similar steps ahead of the November general elections. Trump has resisted such efforts, even threatening last month to hold up federal funding to Michigan and Nevada over state election officials’ decisions to send mail-in ballot applications to registered voters.


In the states that held primaries on Tuesday, however, the decision to expand mail-in voting was largely nonpartisan, with both Democratic and Republican officials throwing their support behind more robust vote-by-mail efforts.

In Montana, where the governor is a Democrat and the secretary of state is a Republican, Tuesday’s primaries were conducted entirely by mail, and every registered voter was sent a ballot ahead of June 2. As of noon on Friday, turnout hovered near 55 percent, up from about 45 percent in 2016, setting an all-time record for a primary election in the state.


Mail-in voting isn’t a new phenomenon in the U.S. Five states – Colorado, Hawaii, Oregon, Utah and Washington – already conduct their elections entirely by mail. California and Montana also rely heavily on mail-in voting, while 27 other states already offered so-called “no-excuse” absentee voting before the onset of the coronavirus pandemic. In the 2018 midterm elections, nearly one in four votes was cast by mail.

But since the pandemic took hold in the U.S. in March, a dozen other states that require voters to provide an excuse in order to cast an absentee ballot have relaxed restrictions to allow any registered voter to vote by mail due to concerns about the coronavirus.


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