Even with all of the chaos that was seen in 2020 because of massive amounts of mail-in voting during the pandemic, congressional Democrats have continued to push “voting reform” bills that make it permanent on a federal level. We were repeatedly assured that too many people were having a hard time voting, and ubiquitous voting by mail would boost participation because people simply like it better. They may want to take a fresh look at that theory following the first rounds of primary voting heading into this year’s midterms. While total turnout has been fairly typical or even slightly elevated thus far in the early voting states, the Associated Press finds that the lion’s share of votes cast thus far have been in person. By contrast, the number of people opting to mail in their ballots has sunk like a stone. This is starting to look like yet another case of the Democrats failing to read the room.
The great vote-by-mail wave appears to be receding just as quickly as it arrived.
After tens of millions of people in the United States opted for mail ballots during the pandemic election of 2020, voters in early primary states are returning in droves to in-person voting this year…
A step back in mail balloting was expected given easing concerns about COVID-19, but some election officials and voting experts had predicted that far more voters would seek out the convenience of mail voting once they experienced it.
The five states where primary voters put this theory to the test were Georgia, Ohio, Indiana, Nebraska, and West Virginia. Numbers are not yet available for Nebraska, but the other four showed a decisive trend. In Georgia’s primary in 2020 there were almost one million people who voted by mail. This year, 85,000 requested mail-in ballots. That’s not even one-tenth of the previous primary numbers. And it’s still not known how many of the ballots that were mailed out were actually returned, but obviously, not all of them were.
The ratios in Ohio, Indiana and West Virginia were similar. While we saw a flood of mail-in ballots during the lockdowns, that number has returned to a trickle. Granted, the states who have voted already were mostly red-to-purple states. Perhaps the percentage will be higher in some of the upcoming blue states. But I’ll be deeply shocked if any of them see even half the number of mail-in ballots that they did two years ago. Of course, that tide could still turn in the other direction. Some analysts that the AP spoke to suggest that it’s just too soon to say.
Experts said it is too early to say whether voting patterns have shifted permanently. How people vote in primaries does not necessarily reflect how they will vote in a general election, when turnout will be heavier and voters might be more worried about crowded polling places and long lines.
If this significant return to in-person voting holds steady, should we really be surprised? There will always be a certain number of people who will be out of town on election day and others with mobility and transportation issues. For those people, mailing in their ballot is obviously the best option. That’s why it’s traditionally been called absentee voting. But for everyone else? Particularly after the endless stories of missing, miscounted, or unverifiable ballots two years ago, why would you want to take the chance when almost everyone’s polling place is conveniently located near their home? You walk in, fill out a physical ballot and submit it. If anything is confusing, there are people there to assist you. You’ll also very likely run into some of your neighbors.
In-person voting is the norm. It’s always been the norm and it needs to continue being the norm. It’s far easier to conduct a recount (if required) when all of the physical ballots are submitted straight from the voter’s hand in a centralized location for each precinct. The more boxes, bags, and hands of “agents” a ballot has to pass through, the less confidence the voters will have in the outcome.
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