More than 31 million ballots were expected to have been mailed in the recent 2008 election — nearly twice as many as in 2004. Voting by mail has expanded as more states offer “no excuses” absentee ballots or conduct elections through the mail. Oregon has voted by mail since 1998 and has saved 30 percent of its election costs by eliminating polling places.
To respond to the vote-by-mail movement, the Postal Service developed a national Election Mail program that offers training to help local officials use mail to increase voter turnout. The Postal Service and the Joint Election Officials Liaison Committee designed an Official Election Mail logo, which is available only to election offices. The logo ensures that Official Election Mail is easily identifiable. In the 2007 update of its Strategic Transformation Plan (click for link), the Postal Service also suggested developing new features — such as pricing that includes return postage and tracking using the Intelligent Mail Barcode — to encourage voting by mail.
Supporters point out that voting by mail can increase voter turnout (between 2 and 10 percent), that voting from home allows more careful consideration of complicated referenda and initiatives, and that voting by mail is an answer to help infirm or handicapped individuals. In Oregon, more than 80 percent of citizens polled said they preferred voting by mail and rated it positively. Detractors, however, raise the possibility of undue influence on voters in private or outright fraud because the remote voting process cannot be monitored. One potential concern for the Postal Service is that it may come under pressure to deliver ballots for free.
What do you think about voting by mail? How can the Postal Service provide the best service for Election Mail? Please comment below.