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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Absentee Voting Bill May Transform Campaigns

Take a break from the rat-a-tat-tat of the horse race, and give a gander to Rob Capriccioso’s “Game Changer: Nationwide No-Excuse Absentee Voting” over at Campaigns & Elections Politics website. Absentee balloting has become an increasingly important factor in campaigns in recent years, with huge percentages of voters casting early ballots in states like California. But the patchwork of state laws regarding absentee voting falls well short of serving all voters who find it difficult to get to the polls on election day. As Capriccioso explains:

Currently, 21 states plus the District of Columbia restrict voters’ ability to vote absentee. In such states, the elderly, individuals with disabilities or an illness, and those who serve in the military are eligible to vote by mail. Excuses, like having to work, a lack of childcare, or jury service don’t cut it. Twenty-eight states now offer voters the option of voting by mail for any reason, and Oregon conducts its elections entirely by mail.

To help address the problem Rep. Susan Davis (D-CA) has introduced the Universal Right to Vote by Mail Act, which would permit every voter in every state the right to vote absentee for any reason whatsoever.
Some believe the bill would benefit the GOP. But as TDS co-editor Bill Galston points out in Capriccioso’s article:

“The traditional argument is that the more open the system is to people who are less strongly attached to it, the more likely you are to increase the share of young adults, first-time voters and moderates,” Galston said. “To the extent that that’s true, those factors would work to the advantage of Democrats.”

The legislation would likely lead to changes in the way campaigns are organized, as Capriccioso explains:

Instead of planning for one Election Day in November, campaigns would have to be prepared to compete in a series of mini-rolling elections in every single state. And the audiences they would be playing to would likely be more diverse, since younger voters, moderates and elderly voters often disproportionately take advantage of absentee voting, if it’s available.

The bill has been approved by the House Administration Committee. Similar legislation is expected in the Senate.

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