Kamila De La Fuente
Californians now have the option to vote by mail for every election.
In an informal survey conducted at the University of La Verne, 20 undergraduate students were asked whether they vote in person, by mail – or at all.
A majority, or 12 out of 20 students, said they vote by mail, four of them said they vote in person while the remaining four either chose not to vote or were not yet old enough to vote.
“I vote by mail because it’s easiest for me,” Scheradyn Hall, senior liberal arts major, said. “I’m able to make decisions with less societal pressure in the comfort of my own home with access to whatever resources I need to make an informed decision.”
Hall said she typically tries to vote with her parents, who give her an unbiased explanation of each proposition.
“I also find dropping off my ballot at my nearest U.S. Postal Service or voting mailboxes in my area safer and more time-efficient than waiting in lines that will take the majority of the day to get through,” Hall said.
Sophomore kinesiology major Jonathan Saldivar agrees.
“I vote by mail. I find it more accessible than traditional voting methods, particularly in a life post-pandemic,” Saldivar said.
In September of last year, California Gov. Gavin Newsom signed the law to make voting by mail a permanent option for all registered voters in the state, who receive mail-in ballots automatically in advance of every local, state and federal election.
The law also calls for a vote-by-mail tracking system accessible to voters with disabilities. And it requires county election officials to permit any voter to cast a ballot using a certified remote accessible vote-by-mail system for any election.
According to the Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement, youth turnout was much higher in the 2020 election than in 2016. Their report found that 52% to 55% of voting-eligible young people, ages 18-29, cast a ballot in the 2020 presidential election, compared to 42% to 44% in 2016. This increase in turnout is due in large part to the availability of alternative voting methods, the report found. In 2020, 70% of young people voted by mail, early voting or absentee, while only 30% reported voting on Election Day, according to the report.
“As states across our country continue to enact undemocratic voter suppression laws, California is increasing voter access, expanding voting options and bolstering elections integrity and transparency,” Newsom said in a press release after signing the automatic vote-by-mail law last year.
Jason Neidleman, professor of political science, agrees that automatic vote-by-mail is good policy.
“The United States has low voter participation, so making it more convenient to vote increases voter participation,” Neidleman said.
Richard Gelm, professor of political science, said voting by mail actually dates back to the Civil War when soldiers mailed in ballots. The actual process of the average individual getting to vote by mail was through absentee ballots. If you were absent from your home and polling place, you could request a ballot for particular circumstances and mail that in on election day, as long as you justified your absence.
“Sending everybody a ballot without requiring them to make an excuse that they’re not going to be home is far more democratic,” Gelm said. “If people want to go and vote in person, they’re still able to do that. Certainly, it makes logical sense that it would increase voter turnout (and) the evidence shows that it does.”
Gelm said he has been voting by mail since the 1980s.
“The key is to get as many people as possible participating in a democracy, that is how the system works. So anything that makes it easier seems to me to make sense,” Gelm said.
Gitty Amini, associate professor of political science, said she was attached to voting in person. But after having no choice during the pandemic, she liked the convenience of voting by mail.
The 2022 United States midterm elections will be held on Nov. 8.
Kamila K. De La Fuente can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.