The Data Is In: This Is What Happens When You Let People Vote at Home
Election nerds across the country rejoice! The 2020 Election Administration and Voting Survey (EAVS) data was released Monday, August 16, much to the excitement of election scientists and wonks everywhere. In the coming weeks and months, the National Vote at Home Institute plans to publish a variety of content that incorporates 2020 EAVS data, but until then, we have compiled our initial takeaways from the comprehensive report.
We have been saying it for years, but the EAVS data further reiterates that when states expand access to voting by mail, people use it! On average, states that expanded vote by mail options, meaning they proactively mailed all voters a ballot or suspended excuse requirements to obtain a mail ballot, saw their share of the vote cast by mail ballot increase by more than 450% compared to 2016.
That’s great, you might be thinking, but what’s the point of more ballots? The point is turnout.
States that expanded access to mail voting since 2016, either by allowing all voters to vote by mail or automatically sending all voters a ballot, saw a 45% higher increase in turnout from 2016 than states that didn’t. States that switched to sending all voters a ballot saw an even greater increase, with a nearly 70% greater increase in average turnout.
Barriers to mail ballots, such as restrictions on who can vote by mail, come at a cost to voters. States that required an excuse for voters to receive a mail ballot had, on average, 6.6% lower turnout. Unsurprisingly, the benefits to turnout don’t stop at no-excuse: states that automatically mailed all voters a ballot saw an average of 7.0% higher turnout than states that didn’t.
Even if you’re not one of the 70+ million Americans that voted by mail in 2020, it probably isn’t much of a shock to learn that the data backs up what most of us already knew: when you make it easy to vote safely and securely, more people vote. The question now is whether lawmakers will listen to voters and maintain pro-voter policies.