Vote by Mail and elections systems expert and seasoned public speaker Kristin Eberhard available for press appearances and background.

Contact: Anna Fahey, 206.447.1880 x 116, Text: 206.650.2630, [email protected]

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: 

Elections administrators are on the front lines of the country’s coronavirus response as they prepare for record volumes of mail-out and absentee ballots. Sightline Institute’s 50-state (plus DC) resource, Vote By Mail for Secure Elections in 2020—and Beyond, compiles successful models to replicate and tested systems to deploy as county clerks, secretaries of state, and local and state elections administrators work to ensure safe, smooth elections in November 2020.

Polling and primary election data suggest that, in the face of pandemic risk, a record number of US voters will opt to vote from the convenience and safety of their homes in 2020.  In 2018, one in four voters nation-wide voted absentee, but that share is expected to spike as high as 70 percent in 2020. Poll workers, 43% of whom are over 60 and thus at particular risk for COVID-19 complications, may also opt to stay away from in-person polling sites. American elections officials face an urgent challenge to secure elections. 

Sightline’s state-by-state guides are designed to give local election officials and legislators the information they need to identify and take the most important steps to get ready for November. Each set of state-specific resources includes best practices and established models from around the country, including practical nuts and bolts advice for clerks, materials from election administrators with experience conducting all mail elections, and information about vendors and costs.

URL for Sightline’s Vote By Mail resources: https://www.sightline.org/votebymail2020/

Kristin Eberhard, Sightline Institute’s director of climate and  democracy policy, is available for interviews, background, and comment. (Press quotes here.)

For media inquiries, please contact Anna Fahey: [email protected] 

About Sightline Institute

Sightline Institute is a nonpartisan nonprofit think tank with a 25-year history. We are based in the Pacific Northwest, where many states already successfully conduct all-mail elections. We are grateful for feedback and research from many elections officials, policy experts, and leaders committed to safe, secure democracy, particularly the National Conference of State Legislators, and the National Vote at Home Institute

About Kristin Eberhard

Kristin Eberhard is Sightline Institute’s director of climate and democracy policy. She researches, writes about, and speaks about climate change policy and elections systems and democracy reform, with particular expertise on Vote By Mail and proportional representation. Before joining Sightline, Kristin taught courses on climate change and energy law at Stanford Law School and UCLA School of Law. Kristin graduated with honors from Stanford University, cum laude from Duke University School of Law, and earned a Masters of Environmental Management from Duke’s Nicholas School of the Environment. Eberhard lives in Oregon, an all-Vote By Mail state. She is available to give interviews and background on tested, safe, fair COVID-19 election practices, state by state. Find her recent articles here

Kristin Eberhard press quotes on Vote By Mail elections

“This is America. Voters should never  have to choose between their health or voice in our democracy. In Oregon, we exercise our right to vote without worrying about protecting our health and safety or jeopardizing our jobs, because we never have to wait in line for hours on election day–pandemic or not. We vote by mail and it boosts turnout and costs less in good times–and is imperative under strict health crisis lockdown orders. We can export lessons and expertise from veterans of Vote By Mail, like Oregon, Utah, and Washington, and make sure it’s safe for all voters to cast their ballots in 2020.” 

In states like Washington and Oregon, where I live and conduct research on electoral systems, we have long voted exclusively by mail. From Oregon, we look at Wisconsin and other places in the country where it’s so difficult to get to the polls and we wish everyone could experience how convenient and secure all absentee balloting is here. All American voters should have the choice to vote safely from their homes this November.” 

We have two decades of experience in voting safely at home. Washington, Utah, Colorado, Hawaii also vote entirely by mail. This is a successful voting model that boosts turnout and costs less in good times–and that can protect our elections and voters under strict health crisis lockdown orders. The good news is that all fifty states have some experience and existing capacity in mailing out absentee ballots. Oregon and our fellow vote by mail states have shown that this can be done in a safe and secure way. Our track record should give other voters confidence to make sure their states offer vote by mail options this November. And elections administrators don’t need to reinvent the wheel or go it alone. We’ve compiled best practices and priority steps for each state to gear up quickly for bigger absentee ballot volumes in November.”

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“Done right, vote by mail is one of the most secure ways to cast a ballot. Many American states already know how to do it right and we’ve packaged up successful models and best practices so that other states can securely accommodate increased shares of voters who opt to stay safe and vote at home in November. In Oregon, each ballot has a unique barcode and each voters’ signature is carefully scrutinized. And unlike voting machines where votes are at the mercy of proprietary technology and vulnerable to hacking, tampering, or technical failure, mail ballots give a verifiable paper trail for each voter. With no paper trail on many machines, voters can’t go back and make sure their vote counted. We’ve seen how problems with machines eroded confidence in elections. Paper ballots that we mail in are safe, secure, and trackable.”

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“Vote by mail boosts turnout. Usually, swing states have the highest turnouts in presidential elections because that’s where the candidates are spending all their time and attention–and cash. Oregon isn’t a swing state, yet we consistently have some of the highest turnout rates in the country. Vote by mail helps engage more Americans in our elections by giving them the chance to vote securely from home. We are glad to share lessons and best practices with elections administrators around the country so that every voter’s sacred right to vote is safeguarded during the pandemic.”

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“As we’ve seen in Oregon and Washington, vote by mail makes it easier for everyone to vote, whether it’s older voters and rural voters–who are more likely to lean conservative–or younger voters who have jobs and other obligations that can keep them from the polls. There’s no clear advantage for either party. In 2016, the same share of Democrats and Republicans voted by mail. Vote By Mail is the right choice for many voters and our resources are designed to help elections administrators offer that choice to more voters in November.” 

Vote By Mail Facts

  • In 2018, nearly one-quarter of Americans voted by mail.
  • In the 2020 primary, a whopping 71 percent of Wisconsin voters voted by mail, up from 10 percent in the previous presidential primary in 2016. 
  • 38 states allow any registered voter to request an absentee ballot / ballot by mail. (four of these usually require an excuse, but have waived that requirement in the face of coronavirus)
  • Vote by mail helps Americans of all political stripes: from voters in rural areas of deep red Utah, to blue Oregon. 
  • One-third of American voters are over 60. 
  • 43 percent of American poll workers are 60 or older. 
  • Millions of American citizens have voted safely and securely by mail for decades, including members of the military and elected officials of both parties. 
  • Polling: Two-thirds of American voters—67 percent—support allowing anyone to vote by mail in the 2020 general election in November, according to an NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll. A majority of voters—58 percent—favors making vote by mail a permanent option for all elections. 
  • This year four states ran vote by mail, ranked choice presidential primaries. This ensured voters’ voices could be heard even if they couldn’t take time off work to vote on election day, and even if their favorite had dropped out of the race by the time election day rolled around. 

Where States Stand Now 

  • All 50 states and DC have some experience and existing capacity in mailing out absentee ballots. 
  • Three states—Colorado, Oregon, Washington—have been mailing ballots to every registered voter for years, decades even. Another two states—Hawaii and Utah—already planned to mail ballots to all voters in 2020. 
  • In Arizona, California, and Montana, most voters already vote absentee.
  • Thirteen states already have experience mailing ballots to all registered voters. Alaska, Florida, Kansas, Maryland, Missouri and Wyoming all conduct certain elections completely by mail, while certain smaller or more rural counties or precincts in Nebraska, North Dakota, Nevada, New Jersey, Idaho, Minnesota, and New Mexico mail out all ballots. 
  • 16 states still require excuses to request an absentee ballot, and four of those (Alabama, Indiana, West Virginia, and Delaware) have temporarily waived the excuse requirement because of COVID-19. Nevada, Montana, and California, have moved to send ballots to all registered voters.
  • Four of our least prepared states (Missouri, Mississippi, South Carolina, Louisiana) require a notary or witness on completed Vote By Mail ballots.
  • Many states have taken emergency action to accommodate more absentee voting during the coronavirus pandemic. Registered voters in Georgia, Idaho and Michigan who are not yet signed up to vote by mail will receive an application in the mail. Election officials in Arizona (Secretary of State and county election directors), Minnesota (Secretary of State), and New Mexico (27 of 33 county clerks) are pushing to be allowed to mail ballots to every registered voter. Officials in Wyoming are considering how to expand voting by mail.

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July 23, 2020