Mail-In Voting Playing Larger Role Than Ever Before

by Jimmy Yates ‘21

Voters are turning to mail-in ballots, otherwise known as absentee ballots, in greater quantities than in 2016 and previous elections. Mail-in ballot requests have skyrocketed as many prefer to vote from the comfort and safety of their homes rather than voting at in-person locations on election day. 

As of October 9, six million Americans across 27 states have already voted through mail-in ballots. More than 80 million absentee ballots have been requested in 46 states. Out of 4,106,000 registered voters in Maryland, 1,479,000 mail-in ballots and counting have been requested. How does this compare to 2016? 38 percent of voters in Maryland early voted by mail in 2016, while 36 percent of registered voters have already requested a mail-in ballot as of October 12, nearly a month before the election.

Following a national trend, 68 percent of mail-in ballots in Maryland were requested by registered Democrats, while only 15 percent were requested by registered Republicans. Therefore, early voting through the mail appears to give Democrats the upper hand and extra momentum going into the election. Many Republicans, including President Trump, have criticized mail-in ballots, although the President himself has voted through the mail in past elections. The president has claimed, “The mail ballots are corrupt … they’re forgeries, in many cases. It’s a horrible thing.” Such critiques have raised doubts about mail-in voting among some voters whether mail-in voting is reliable, safe, and/or fraudulent.

Despite bold claims from the President and some fellow Republicans, the critiques of mail-in ballots are not backed by evidence. According to the Conservative Heritage Foundation, which keeps a database of documented election fraud cases in the United States over the last 20 years, there have been 204 cases of absentee ballot fraud over the past 20 years. That translates to less than a hundredth of a percent.

Many, especially first-time voters or those who haven’t voted through the mail before, may be discouraged from mail-in voting by critics like the President. However, looking at the data, voting through the mail is a safe and effective way to vote.

“I registered online and voted with an absentee ballot because the process was quick and easy,” said first-time voter and senior Paul Magin. “I chose to vote through the mail because I feel it’s safer than voting in person.”

For those that have voted by mail in previous elections, the 2020 presidential election is nothing out of the ordinary. “I’m voting by mail this year, “mostly to avoid long lines at the polls” said Olney resident Dave Peloff, who has voted in multiple presidential elections.  “But I also like having more time with the ballot so I can look up information about candidates I’ve never heard of before making a decision. I recommend that people vote early. Waiting until election day to send a mail-in ballot risks your vote not being counted in time to matter. Voting in-person on election day could mean a very long wait, and doesn’t allow for unexpected life events that could keep you from voting at all.”