Increasing Voter Participation - League of Women Voters of New ...

Increasing Voter Participation - League of Women Voters of New ...

Increasing Voter Participation - League of Women Voters of New ...


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<strong>Increasing</strong> <strong>Voter</strong><br />

<strong>Participation</strong><br />


A Briefing Paper Prepared by the <strong>League</strong> <strong>of</strong> <strong>Women</strong> <strong>Voter</strong>s <strong>of</strong> <strong>New</strong> York State<br />

Education Foundation and the <strong>League</strong> <strong>of</strong> <strong>Women</strong> <strong>Voter</strong>s <strong>of</strong> <strong>New</strong> York State

<strong>League</strong> <strong>of</strong> <strong>Women</strong> <strong>Voter</strong>s <strong>of</strong> <strong>New</strong> York State <strong>Increasing</strong> <strong>Voter</strong> <strong>Participation</strong><br />

<strong>Increasing</strong> <strong>Voter</strong> <strong>Participation</strong><br />

Opportunities in <strong>New</strong> York State<br />

Introduction and Executive Summary<br />

<strong>New</strong> York State has <strong>of</strong>ten been recognized as one <strong>of</strong> the most progressive states in<br />

the country. For example, passage <strong>of</strong> the Marriage Equality Act on June 24, 2011 made<br />

<strong>New</strong> York the sixth, largest, and arguably the most influential state to enact such<br />

landmark legislation. However, one area in which <strong>New</strong> York has not been a leader is<br />

election reform. While other states have been experimenting for the last three decades<br />

with ways to increase opportunities to vote, <strong>New</strong> York’s policies and laws have remained<br />

largely unchanged and the state’s voter turnout rates have likely suffered as a result.<br />

Over the last three federal elections, <strong>New</strong> York had the 47 th lowest voter<br />

participation rate <strong>of</strong> the 50 states and Washington, D.C. 1 This low ranking can partially<br />

be explained by <strong>New</strong> York’s paper-based registration system, early registration deadline<br />

and other outdated voter registration policies, including the state’s long waiting period for<br />

changing party affiliation. Even in comparison to other inflexible states, <strong>New</strong> York has<br />

some <strong>of</strong> the most rigid voter registration policies in the country. In addition, it is one <strong>of</strong><br />

only fifteen states that both do not allow any form <strong>of</strong> early in-person voting and require<br />

an excuse for absentee ballots. 2 <strong>New</strong> York also has a number <strong>of</strong> out-dated requirements<br />

for ballot design that may contribute to voter confusion and errors.<br />

There are many possible opportunities to increase rates <strong>of</strong> voter participation in<br />

<strong>New</strong> York State through common sense solutions that have been implemented, to varying<br />

degrees <strong>of</strong> success, in other states beginning in the 1980s. These fall into three general<br />

categories:<br />

• <strong>Voter</strong> registration modernization. Paperless forms <strong>of</strong> voter registration have<br />

decreased costs and increased accuracy <strong>of</strong> the voter roles in a number <strong>of</strong> other<br />

states. Registering and voting on the same day is a proven method <strong>of</strong><br />

increasing voter participation.<br />

• Early voting. Many voters across the country now cast their votes before the<br />

traditional “Election Day” marked by the Tuesday following the first Monday<br />

in November. While the impact <strong>of</strong> early voting on turnout has been debated,<br />

it has become popular for its convenience as voters chose to vote to suit their<br />

own schedule.<br />

• Better ballot design, poll worker training and voter education. Improving the<br />

<strong>of</strong>ten confusing design <strong>of</strong> <strong>New</strong> York’s ballots, improving and standardizing<br />

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<strong>League</strong> <strong>of</strong> <strong>Women</strong> <strong>Voter</strong>s <strong>of</strong> <strong>New</strong> York State <strong>Increasing</strong> <strong>Voter</strong> <strong>Participation</strong><br />

• the training <strong>of</strong> poll workers, as well as providing such basic voter education as<br />

online ballots, could improve the voting experience <strong>of</strong> <strong>New</strong> Yorkers.<br />

This paper and the accompanying Power Point presentation are intended as an<br />

overview on strategies other states have used to make voting more flexible and<br />

accessible, and some <strong>of</strong> the considerations for potentially implementing them in <strong>New</strong><br />

York. It does not intend to suggest that every voting innovation mentioned should be<br />

adopted in <strong>New</strong> York. However, by putting this information together in one place, we<br />

hope to facilitate conversations about which <strong>of</strong> these methods, individually or in<br />

combination, might help raise levels <strong>of</strong> voter participation in our state. Some <strong>of</strong> the<br />

reforms mentioned below may not be feasible for the demographic or geographical<br />

makeup <strong>of</strong> <strong>New</strong> York. Others could be expanded, scaled down, or modified to meet the<br />

specific needs <strong>of</strong> our state.<br />

Acknowledgements<br />

This paper was written by Sally Robinson, Issues and Advocacy Vice President,<br />

<strong>League</strong> <strong>of</strong> <strong>Women</strong> <strong>Voter</strong>s <strong>of</strong> <strong>New</strong> York State, with the help <strong>of</strong> interns Jeffrey Blauvelt<br />

and Hanna Birkhead, whose contributions were made possible by the generous support <strong>of</strong><br />

the Rockefeller Brothers Fund. The author also thanks Laura Bierman, Executive<br />

Director <strong>of</strong> the <strong>League</strong> <strong>of</strong> <strong>Women</strong> <strong>Voter</strong>s <strong>of</strong> <strong>New</strong> York State (LWVNYS) for her able<br />

assistance in many ways as well as Adrienne Kivelson, Aimee Allaud, and Rachel Fauss,<br />

for their helpful suggestions. Thanks also to Jennie Bowser <strong>of</strong> the National Council <strong>of</strong><br />

State Legislatures and that organization for their help with obtaining the most recent<br />

information possible on election innovations in other states as well as the useful reports<br />

contained in the Appendices to this paper.<br />

The material contained in this paper is based on publicly available materials, including<br />

several recent reports issued by the Brennan Center for Justice, a 2010 <strong>Voter</strong> Survey<br />

conducted by LWVNYS and recent discussions <strong>of</strong> some <strong>of</strong> these proposals by the<br />

LWVNYS with the Executive Directors <strong>of</strong> the <strong>New</strong> York State Board <strong>of</strong> Elections<br />

(BOE).<br />

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<strong>League</strong> <strong>of</strong> <strong>Women</strong> <strong>Voter</strong>s <strong>of</strong> <strong>New</strong> York State <strong>Increasing</strong> <strong>Voter</strong> <strong>Participation</strong><br />

<strong>Voter</strong> Registration Modernization<br />

Getting Rid <strong>of</strong> the Paper<br />

Not being registered to vote is the number one barrier to voting. Modernizing and<br />

automating state voter registration at state agencies and Boards <strong>of</strong> Election would save<br />

money, increase accuracy <strong>of</strong> the voter rolls and increase participation. <strong>New</strong> York<br />

currently uses a paper-based system for voter registration that is cumbersome and prone<br />

to error. You can register in person at any board <strong>of</strong> elections or at any <strong>New</strong> York State<br />

agency-based voter registration center such as the Department <strong>of</strong> Motor Vehicles (DMV).<br />

You can also download a PDF version <strong>of</strong> the registration form from the BOE, enter your<br />

name in a database to have one sent to you, or fill out a PDF form online which can be<br />

printed and mailed to the BOE. All <strong>of</strong> these methods require the voter to take an extra<br />

step, such as signing the form and mailing it to the BOE, if not registering in person.<br />

A number <strong>of</strong> states have replaced paper registration systems with automated<br />

registration systems, or “paperless” registration systems, in which state government<br />

agencies, primarily DMVs, collect and transfer voter registrations electronically and<br />

automatically. Under automated registration systems, states can also allow online voter<br />

registration by citizens. Once an eligible citizen is on a state’s voter rolls, that record is<br />

automatically updated when new information about the citizen appears in any state<br />

database. Eligible citizens can also correct errors on the voter rolls before and on<br />

Election Day.<br />

The seven states - Arizona, Delaware, Florida, Kansas, Pennsylvania, Rhode<br />

Island and Washington - that have adopted automated registration at DMVs all follow<br />

basically the same process: 3<br />

Step 1: When a customer wishes to register to vote and affirms her eligibility, DMV<br />

<strong>of</strong>ficials enter her information into the DMV database system.<br />

Step 2: The statewide voter registration database system collects voter registration<br />

information from the DMV system and sends it to local election <strong>of</strong>ficials for review.<br />

Step 3: Local <strong>of</strong>ficials review the new registrations.<br />

Step 4: When local <strong>of</strong>ficials accept the registrations, they are posted to the voter rolls.<br />

These states have fully automated systems for DMVs in which the entire process is<br />

paperless, so that all information election <strong>of</strong>ficials need is transmitted electronically in a<br />

format that can be uploaded into their databases. States that require a signature for voter<br />

registration can use a copy <strong>of</strong> the digitized signature that individuals submit for the<br />

driver’s license or photo I.D. 4 At least ten other states now have partially automated<br />

systems in which agency <strong>of</strong>ficials transmit some information electronically, but have not<br />

completely eliminated the transmittal <strong>of</strong> paper forms (such as for signatures) or local data<br />

entry. 5 During the LWVNYS meeting with the NYS BOE, it was pointed out that using<br />

DMV information to automatically register voters would not be as useful in <strong>New</strong> York,<br />

due to the abnormally high percentage <strong>of</strong> <strong>New</strong> York City residents who don’t have a<br />

driver’s license. 6 <strong>New</strong> York may favor a plan where voter registration information is<br />

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<strong>League</strong> <strong>of</strong> <strong>Women</strong> <strong>Voter</strong>s <strong>of</strong> <strong>New</strong> York State <strong>Increasing</strong> <strong>Voter</strong> <strong>Participation</strong><br />

transmitted electronically not just from the DMV, but from other agencies as well, as is<br />

currently done in Washington, Kansas and South Dakota. 7<br />

Nine states currently <strong>of</strong>fer online registration, and two more, California and<br />

Maryland, have passed legislation to do so. 8 However, all these states continue to <strong>of</strong>fer<br />

paper-based registration through the mail or in-person since electronic registration is<br />

intended to extend access not limit it. 9 For security purposes, online registrants are<br />

required to have a state issued driver’s license or I.D. which rules out some portion <strong>of</strong> the<br />

population. Other states have also adopted statewide permanent registration, a system in<br />

which voters stay registered and can easily update their information online without reregistering<br />

if they move anywhere within a state. By contrast, in <strong>New</strong> York, voters have<br />

to use the state’s voter registration form to update any change <strong>of</strong> name or address, and the<br />

form must be received 20 days before an election.<br />

In 2010 the Brennan Center for Justice did the first in-depth study <strong>of</strong> paperless<br />

voter registration across the United States. It found that registration innovations have<br />

earned praise from both parties. Moreover, none <strong>of</strong> the state <strong>of</strong>ficials interviewed by the<br />

Brennan Center found any reliability or security problems with paperless registration. 10<br />

The Brennan Center study found that not only did paperless registration produce fewer<br />

errors initially, it also helped keep the voter rolls more accurate by making it easier for<br />

voters to update their information. More accurate voter rolls lead to less<br />

disenfranchisement through voter roll purges and decreased use <strong>of</strong> provisional ballots on<br />

Election Day. In fact, in most other major democracies around the world the<br />

government takes on the responsibility <strong>of</strong> compiling and updating voter registration lists<br />

instead <strong>of</strong> voters having to take the initiative to register. 11<br />

The Pew Center on the States has been working with state and local election<br />

<strong>of</strong>ficials, as well as technology experts, to upgrade voter registration systems using<br />

technology. Part <strong>of</strong> their work, over several studies, highlights how modernizing voter<br />

registration systems can save significant amounts <strong>of</strong> money. In one Arizona County,<br />

costs were reduced to an average <strong>of</strong> 3 cents per voter for online registration versus 83<br />

cents for paper registrations. Delaware saved $200,000 in labor costs in its Department<br />

<strong>of</strong> Elections, and $50,000 in its DMV budget, after it introduced its paperless eSignature<br />

system. 12<br />

The infrastructure for voter registration modernization is in place in every state,<br />

including <strong>New</strong> York. Every state now has a statewide voter registration database pursuant<br />

to the Help America Vote Act. 13 Most other reliable government lists are also now in<br />

computerized databases. For example, the Selective Service has for a number <strong>of</strong> years<br />

built its registration lists largely through automated registration and data transfer from<br />

government, agencies.<br />

In LWVNYS conversations with the two Executive Directors <strong>of</strong> the <strong>New</strong> York<br />

State BOE, one key concern raised with automated and/or online registration is the<br />

requirement for a signature on the registration form. 14 <strong>New</strong> York’s Electronic Signatures<br />

and Records Act allows electronic signatures to be accepted on some documents unless<br />

December 2011 Page | 4

<strong>League</strong> <strong>of</strong> <strong>Women</strong> <strong>Voter</strong>s <strong>of</strong> <strong>New</strong> York State <strong>Increasing</strong> <strong>Voter</strong> <strong>Participation</strong><br />

the specific legislation for that department prohibits it. An additional concern is cost.<br />

Currently, the <strong>New</strong> York DMV prints out a voter registration applicant’s information and<br />

then sends it to the county BOE where staff manually enters the information into the<br />

database. Other state agencies are required to provide paper voter registration forms and<br />

assistance under the National <strong>Voter</strong> Registration Act. There would be some upfront costs<br />

involved in automating the process, including updating the DMV database to contain all<br />

the information, i.e. full names, that would be needed for voter registration. DMV has<br />

just instituted a new website, “MyDMV” which allows people to change addresses, get<br />

paperless reminders, etc. online; it should eventually be possible to transmit this<br />

information to the BOE for updating registration materials if the database improvements<br />

were made and online registrations and electronic signatures were accepted. The<br />

experiences <strong>of</strong> other states show that the ultimate cost savings could be significant and<br />

the accuracy <strong>of</strong> the system improved if <strong>New</strong> York moved to paperless registration.<br />

The BOE Directors also discussed the requirement that submission <strong>of</strong> new voter<br />

registrations and changes to registrations be made at least 20 days before the election.<br />

The constitutional requirement is only 10 days, but because <strong>of</strong> the current system <strong>of</strong><br />

mailing the forms to the counties and manually entering the data, 10 days provides too<br />

little time. With automated or online registrations, the updates may be able to be<br />

completed within the constitutionally required 10-day minimum period. Another issue<br />

discussed was the printing <strong>of</strong> the rolls for Election Day; again, 10 days is not sufficient<br />

for printing <strong>of</strong> the rolls but would be possible if the signatures were received<br />

electronically and the rolls were available on a terminal at the polling place, as is being<br />

piloted in two counties in NYS this year. In these trials, the voter provides his/her<br />

signature electronically on a signature pad and it is compared to the signature available<br />

on the terminal. In this process, the rolls are not printed on paper allowing for a shorter<br />

time from receipt <strong>of</strong> a registration to Election Day.<br />

Election Day registration<br />

Election Day registration (EDR), or registering and voting on the same day, has<br />

been consistently found to increase turnout without imposing major costs since deadlines<br />

discourage citizens who would otherwise want to vote. 15 Eight states currently have EDR<br />

and two more currently allow voters to register and cast a vote during the early voting<br />

period. 16 EDR is particularly useful to younger voters, first-time voters and the<br />

geographically mobile and results in a decreased use <strong>of</strong> provisional ballots. A 2007 study<br />

<strong>of</strong> voter fraud and EDR found that EDR did not increase the opportunity for voter fraud. 17<br />

States with EDR require identification and pro<strong>of</strong> <strong>of</strong> residency on Election Day and utilize<br />

trained election personnel to supervise EDR, safeguards that are generally not otherwise<br />

present when EDR is not available.<br />

The <strong>New</strong> York state constitution requires a deadline for voter registration <strong>of</strong> 10<br />

days prior to the election, so a change to EDR in <strong>New</strong> York would require both<br />

legislation and a constitutional amendment. Under <strong>New</strong> York’s Election Law, party<br />

affiliation has to be changed by 25 days prior to the date <strong>of</strong> the preceding general<br />

Election Day which means that a voter who changes party affiliation after that deadline<br />

must sit out one entire primary cycle. In the rest <strong>of</strong> the country, 20 <strong>of</strong> 25 states that<br />

December 2011 Page | 5

<strong>League</strong> <strong>of</strong> <strong>Women</strong> <strong>Voter</strong>s <strong>of</strong> <strong>New</strong> York State <strong>Increasing</strong> <strong>Voter</strong> <strong>Participation</strong><br />

require party affiliation to vote in primaries allow changes within 30 days or less <strong>of</strong> the<br />

primary. 18<br />

Early Voting<br />

One tool that many states have used to improve voter participation is to provide<br />

opportunities for voters to cast their votes before Election Day in addition to completing<br />

traditional absentee ballots. Early voting has become so widespread throughout the<br />

United States that 30% <strong>of</strong> voters in the 2008 election cast their votes before Election Day.<br />

Early voting reforms generally seek to make the voting process easier and more<br />

convenient. However, academic studies have <strong>of</strong>fered different opinions on the effect <strong>of</strong><br />

early voting on voter turnout. While one study 19 found that early voting increased voter<br />

turnout (after accounting for other variables), other studies have concluded that early<br />

voting either has no effect, may decrease turnout, or has only a small positive effect. 20<br />

With respect to mail ballots, four <strong>of</strong> the five states where the number <strong>of</strong> mail ballots<br />

exceeds half <strong>of</strong> all ballots cast have turnout rates above the median for all states. 21 Some<br />

skeptics have also expressed concern that stretching out the voting period dilutes the<br />

special civic experience <strong>of</strong> one “Election Day.” 22<br />

There is agreement that early voting encourages turnout mainly in those<br />

demographics that are already likely to go out and vote – it simply provides them with<br />

more options for when to vote. 23 Early voting can further mobilize these voters since it<br />

allows them to avoid the travel expenses and waiting time that having to vote at a<br />

specified polling place on the day <strong>of</strong> the election can cause. Implementing early voting<br />

also saves time and money for polling staff on Election Day by decreasing the numbers<br />

<strong>of</strong> voters on that day. 24 Early voting also can lead to more accurate ballot counting since<br />

staff can begin to count the ballots early and not be as rushed at the end <strong>of</strong> the process<br />

and voters consistently express high levels <strong>of</strong> satisfaction with the system. 25 Both <strong>of</strong> the<br />

main national organizations that deal with election administration in the states, the<br />

National Conference <strong>of</strong> State Legislatures and the National Association <strong>of</strong> Secretaries <strong>of</strong><br />

State, issued reports in 2001 and 2003 urging states to consider early voting reforms.<br />

There are three ways that early voting has been implemented in other states to<br />

varying degrees:<br />

1. No-Excuse Absentee Voting<br />

2. Early in-Person Voting<br />

3. All Vote-by-Mail Voting<br />

Critics <strong>of</strong> expanded early voting methods focus their arguments on its disparate<br />

impact on different demographic groups, voter fraud concerns and, with respect to early<br />

in-person voting, the cost <strong>of</strong> having election <strong>of</strong>ficials and equipment implement early inperson<br />

voting sites. During 2011, five states, Florida, Georgia, Ohio, Tennessee, and<br />

West Virginia enacted laws reducing early/absentee voting opportunities. However, this<br />

partial withdrawal from early voting can be seen as part <strong>of</strong> a recent broader trend in<br />

which states have passed new government-issued photo ID laws for voting, new pro<strong>of</strong> <strong>of</strong><br />

citizenship laws, and laws restricting voting registration drives. A recent report by the<br />

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<strong>League</strong> <strong>of</strong> <strong>Women</strong> <strong>Voter</strong>s <strong>of</strong> <strong>New</strong> York State <strong>Increasing</strong> <strong>Voter</strong> <strong>Participation</strong><br />

Brennan Center estimated that these restrictions will affect millions <strong>of</strong> Americans for the<br />

2012 elections and will fall most heavily on young, minority and low-income voters. 26<br />

Implementing early voting in <strong>New</strong> York is complicated by the fact that no-excuse<br />

absentee voting and possibly other forms <strong>of</strong> early voting would require an amendment to<br />

the state constitution, a cumbersome and time-consuming process. A constitutional<br />

amendment in <strong>New</strong> York requires passage by two separately elected legislatures and then<br />

approval by the voters.<br />

No-Excuse Absentee Voting<br />

No-excuse absentee voting is the most widely used type <strong>of</strong> early voting reform.<br />

Every state in the United States, including <strong>New</strong> York, has some type <strong>of</strong> absentee voting<br />

(or operates on an all-mail system), with twenty-seven states plus the District <strong>of</strong><br />

Columbia allowing specifically for no-excuse absentee voting. 27 No-excuse absentee<br />

voting allows voters to obtain an absentee ballot without explaining why they will not be<br />

able to get to their polling place on Election Day. In some states, including <strong>New</strong> York,<br />

absentee ballots are available but obtaining one requires an excuse; in other words, voters<br />

must explain why they require an absentee ballot. This practice can lead to lower rates <strong>of</strong><br />

using the absentee ballot system because some voters may be reluctant to tell the<br />

government about a health problem or any other type <strong>of</strong> personal issue that would keep<br />

them from voting on-site, or may just prefer the general convenience <strong>of</strong> effectively voting<br />

by mail through no-excuse absentee voting rather than having to show up at a voting<br />

booth. Absentee ballot applications in <strong>New</strong> York can also be intimidating, as they require<br />

the voter to sign an affidavit that false statements will subject the voter to penalties. In<br />

the twenty-seven states that allowed “no-excuse” absentee voting by mail in 2008, 22%<br />

<strong>of</strong> ballots were cast by mail. In the states that still require an excuse to vote absentee,<br />

only 6.0% <strong>of</strong> ballots were cast by mail. 28 Allowing voters to obtain absentee ballots with<br />

no questions asked leads to higher rates <strong>of</strong> voters requesting these ballots, completing<br />

them, and sending them in. 29<br />

California in particular has become a national model for no-excuse absentee<br />

voting. In 2002 and 2003, during two <strong>of</strong> California’s earliest elections using this reform,<br />

over 25% <strong>of</strong> the voting electorate cast their votes through the new absentee ballots. 30 By<br />

the 2009 elections in California, over 62% <strong>of</strong> the voters cast their votes in this manner. 31<br />

This can partially be attributed to the fact that California, aside from just allowing noexcuse<br />

absentee balloting, also allows for “permanent absentee status,” which means that<br />

all voters can choose to send their ballots in permanently by mail, instead <strong>of</strong> having to fill<br />

out a new absentee ballot request form for every election. Still, some <strong>of</strong> the success can<br />

also be attributed to the simple fact that more citizens <strong>of</strong> California felt comfortable<br />

requesting an absentee ballot in the first place, since they did not have to provide an<br />

excuse. However, it is possible that California, along with Oregon and Washington, has<br />

expanded early voting in part because the ballot is so long with citizen initiatives that<br />

precinct-based voting becomes less attractive. 32<br />

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<strong>League</strong> <strong>of</strong> <strong>Women</strong> <strong>Voter</strong>s <strong>of</strong> <strong>New</strong> York State <strong>Increasing</strong> <strong>Voter</strong> <strong>Participation</strong><br />

Absentee voting greatly reduces the administrative costs on the day <strong>of</strong> an election<br />

by creating less demand on the polling sites and staffers. Fewer lines and fewer people<br />

using the voting machines reduce the stress on the voting facilities and associated costs.<br />

Under current <strong>New</strong> York law, there are built-in minimum staffing costs because four poll<br />

workers are currently mandated for each election district, but with changes in the law<br />

some election districts could be consolidated and assistance provided by other and fewer<br />

clerks to reduce costs. The longer period during which to record voters’ ballots provides<br />

for a more accurate count and increased security due to the substantial paper trail. Finally,<br />

the increased simplicity <strong>of</strong> the voting process for those voters who use absentee ballots<br />

and the reduced wait times on election day for those voters still choosing to vote on<br />

Election Day may further increase overall voter satisfaction.<br />

Ever since absentee balloting first became an option in the early 20 th century, the<br />

risks <strong>of</strong> fraud and coercion with this method have been debated. In particular, some<br />

critics think that a large expansion <strong>of</strong> absentee voting would threaten the security <strong>of</strong> the<br />

ballot. 33 Though there is a solid paper trail left behind from this kind <strong>of</strong> voting and no<br />

chance <strong>of</strong> machine malfunction, this method is seen as being less secure because a voter’s<br />

identity is not verified in the same ways as in-person voting. 34 There is no way <strong>of</strong><br />

knowing whether a voter actually filled out a ballot by him or herself, or whether<br />

someone (e.g., a caretaker) filled it out for them, had the voter sign the form, and sent it<br />

in.<br />

Early in-Person Voting<br />

Another method that some states have implemented in order to raise their voting<br />

participation is early in-person (EIP) voting. Currently, thirty-two states plus the District<br />

<strong>of</strong> Columbia have implemented some type <strong>of</strong> early in-person voting program. 35 In<br />

addition to traditional polling places, the majority <strong>of</strong> these states have set up polling sites<br />

that are in locations such as supermarkets and shopping malls. These locations are more<br />

heavily trafficked and convenient to voters than traditional polling places. In the 2008<br />

election, 17 states allowed for both mail ballots and EIP voting, and out <strong>of</strong> those states,<br />

11 states had a higher number <strong>of</strong> people vote EIP than by a mail ballot. 36 When states<br />

choose to adopt EIP voting, it becomes a popular way for voters to cast their ballots.<br />

EIP voting helps increase voter satisfaction in large part because it is more<br />

convenient and decreases wait times on Election Day. In Texas during one <strong>of</strong> their first<br />

elections that allowed EIP voting, more people voted early than on the day <strong>of</strong> the<br />

election. 37 Before the 2004 Presidential Election, election <strong>of</strong>ficials in the state <strong>of</strong> Nevada<br />

set up eight ‘permanent’ early voting sites (and many other non-permanent early voting<br />

sites) throughout the state at malls, supermarkets, libraries and community center and<br />

other similar places. During that election, over 270,000 voters chose to cast their votes at<br />

one <strong>of</strong> these sites. Forty thousand <strong>of</strong> those voters voted at the early voting center set up in<br />

the Galleria at Sunset, a mall that has become “a wildly popular place to vote” and shop<br />

alike in Nevada. 38<br />

December 2011 Page | 8

<strong>League</strong> <strong>of</strong> <strong>Women</strong> <strong>Voter</strong>s <strong>of</strong> <strong>New</strong> York State <strong>Increasing</strong> <strong>Voter</strong> <strong>Participation</strong><br />

Early voting comes with a variety <strong>of</strong> concerns with respect to providing fair and<br />

equal voting opportunities and meeting new demands on elections systems. Early voting<br />

centers must be established in appropriate locations, which can be difficult to find and<br />

establish. Each early voting location must draw enough voter traffic to compensate for<br />

the additional costs <strong>of</strong> having election <strong>of</strong>ficials and voting equipment at the sites full-time<br />

for several weeks. Enough trained people must be available to staff polling places that<br />

are open for longer periods <strong>of</strong> time. EIP voting also does not address accessibility,<br />

economic or demographic barriers that may keep a voter from reaching a polling site and<br />

does not appear to necessarily draw new voters into the system. Not surprisingly, some<br />

studies show that the types <strong>of</strong> voters who are more likely to use these early voting places<br />

are essentially identical demographically to those who will usually vote on the day <strong>of</strong> the<br />

election. Thus, EIP may not significantly change the demographics <strong>of</strong> the electorate<br />

compared to traditional election-day voting methods. 39 However, EIP voting could be<br />

helpful in reducing barriers to ballot access in the “mobile population,” i.e., college<br />

students or residents <strong>of</strong> urban areas who might not know where their polling place is or<br />

are not registered with the proper polling place. Ideally any system <strong>of</strong> EIP voting would<br />

equally advantage all income, demographic and ethnic groups, and not reduce voting<br />

opportunities for “less mobile” seniors and urban residents.<br />

All Vote-By-Mail Voting<br />

A third early voting approach is to shift an entire state or county to an all vote-bymail<br />

(VBM) system. All VBM entirely eliminates polling sites with in-person voting<br />

machines and instead mandates that all voters submit their ballots by mail. VBM voting<br />

is convenient, fast, and doesn’t require personal transportation to a far away polling site.<br />

Oregon is the only state to have entirely shifted to all VBM voting. The state’s decision<br />

to go entirely VBM was made after twenty years <strong>of</strong> slow change in that direction,<br />

beginning with absentee ballots and progressing until more voters were sending in their<br />

ballots than going to their polling places. 40 Now, every voter in Oregon casts his or her<br />

ballot through the mail. Washington State has had a similarly gradual shift towards all<br />

VBM voting. In 1967, any precinct in Washington with fewer than 100 registered voters<br />

was designated as a mail ballot precinct. By 2005, the state allowed any county the<br />

option to conduct all elections by mail. As <strong>of</strong> today, all but one <strong>of</strong> Washington’s 39<br />

counties have elected to shift to all VBM voting.<br />

All VBM systems allow for a complete paper trail and enable random ballot<br />

auditing. Since there are no polling sites in this type <strong>of</strong> election, the administrative costs<br />

associated with staff and voting machines, including their upkeep, are very low. All<br />

VBM also eliminates the need to hire poll-workers and give them adequate training.<br />

Oregon <strong>of</strong>ficials have estimated that they have saved 17% on overall election costs by<br />

switching to an all VBM system. 41<br />

However, despite these positive outcomes <strong>of</strong> all-VBM voting, the VBM switch in<br />

the state <strong>of</strong> California demonstrates that this type <strong>of</strong> system, if implemented improperly,<br />

can actually have the negative effect <strong>of</strong> lowering voter participation rates. Unlike Oregon<br />

and Washington, which put VBM voting into practice gradually and with the support <strong>of</strong><br />

December 2011 Page | 9

<strong>League</strong> <strong>of</strong> <strong>Women</strong> <strong>Voter</strong>s <strong>of</strong> <strong>New</strong> York State <strong>Increasing</strong> <strong>Voter</strong> <strong>Participation</strong><br />

local <strong>of</strong>ficials, some districts in California abruptly mandated that voters had to use an all<br />

VBM system without adequate voter education and local support, and saw their voter<br />

participation rates drop by over 13%. 42 One commentator also attributed the different<br />

impact <strong>of</strong> all VBM by noting that Oregon is a state that did not have “the challenges<br />

posed by population demographics, high density, or language diversity” that California<br />

did. 43 The California experience shows that the switch to an all VBM system must be<br />

made carefully. 44<br />

As with no-excuse absentee balloting, shifting to an all VBM system in <strong>New</strong> York<br />

State would require a constitutional amendment. All VBM systems have the same<br />

security and fraud concerns as other vote by mail systems. Finally, although an all VBM<br />

system may increase voter participation by those voters who are already registered to<br />

vote, mail-ballot elections do not appear to increase registration according to a report<br />

made by the City <strong>of</strong> San Diego Office <strong>of</strong> the City Clerk. 45 Still, as one commentator<br />

observed, “mail-ballot elections do appear to retain voters by removing obstacles such as<br />

illness, traffic or busyness, which might reduce one’s likelihood <strong>of</strong> voting on a given<br />

election day.” 46<br />

Better Ballot Design, <strong>Voter</strong> Education and Poll Worker Training<br />

Fixing the Ballot<br />

Another avenue to improve <strong>New</strong> York’s low rate <strong>of</strong> voter participation is to create<br />

a better ballot design since the design <strong>of</strong> a ballot can have a significant impact on the<br />

outcome <strong>of</strong> any given election. A poorly designed ballot can contribute to errors in<br />

voting, when citizens mistakenly cast their ballot for a candidate for whom they did not<br />

mean to vote, and in tallying the final votes, when the <strong>of</strong>ficials tallying the votes have<br />

trouble reading the ballot and record the wrong vote. Furthermore, poorly designed<br />

ballots and the confusion associated with them can lead to a distrust <strong>of</strong> the voting system<br />

by the electorate, in turn leading to lower rates <strong>of</strong> voter participation. 47<br />

The most famous example <strong>of</strong> poor ballot design impacting an election is probably<br />

the 2000 presidential election in Florida, in which a flawed “butterfly ballot” in Palm<br />

Beach County may have been a source <strong>of</strong> errors in voting that affected the outcome <strong>of</strong> a<br />

Presidential election. Since then, a new government agency, the United States Election<br />

Assistance Commission, has been formed and has recommended many changes that<br />

could be made to ballots. In the Commission’s 2007 report, “Effective Designs for the<br />

Administration <strong>of</strong> Federal Elections,” it recommends, among other things: changing the<br />

ballot designs for elections, posting public samples <strong>of</strong> ballots on or before Election Day,<br />

publicly posting instructions for all voters, and only using one language at a time on any<br />

particular ballot wherever possible (while recognizing that two languages may be<br />

necessary in certain cases). 48 The Commission’s goal was to create a ballot that is easily<br />

understood by voters (including those with vision and literacy issues), supports ease <strong>of</strong><br />

use and confidence in the electoral process, and is easily translated and is sensitive to<br />

cultural differences in language and expression. 49<br />

December 2011 Page | 10

<strong>League</strong> <strong>of</strong> <strong>Women</strong> <strong>Voter</strong>s <strong>of</strong> <strong>New</strong> York State <strong>Increasing</strong> <strong>Voter</strong> <strong>Participation</strong><br />

The recommendations made by the Commission were only suggestions, however,<br />

and <strong>New</strong> York’s ballots have remained largely unchanged and do not address these<br />

recommendations. The current design <strong>of</strong> the ballot in <strong>New</strong> York, particularly in <strong>New</strong><br />

York City, creates many troublesome areas where voters can (and do) easily make<br />

mistakes, leading to a high number <strong>of</strong> votes being either lost or miscast during a given<br />

election cycle. 50 <strong>Voter</strong>s may:<br />

- Fill in the wrong bubble<br />

- Misunderstand which races allow voting for more than one candidate<br />

- Overlook the write-in area altogether<br />

Furthermore, in the case <strong>of</strong> <strong>New</strong> York City ballots, instructions for filling out the ballot<br />

appear in the upper right hand corner, taking up a considerable amount <strong>of</strong> space on the<br />

ballots. <strong>New</strong> York City also includes multiple languages on the ballot instead <strong>of</strong> separate<br />

ballots for each <strong>of</strong> the four federally-mandated languages, despite the Commission’s<br />

recommendation having a maximum <strong>of</strong> two languages on any given ballot. 51 In order to<br />

fit all <strong>of</strong> the necessary information, the writing on the ballots is very small. With each<br />

added language, the entire ballot becomes that much more difficult for the average voter<br />

to fill out correctly, without confusion and aggravation.<br />

Simplifying <strong>New</strong> York’s ballots and increasing the clarity <strong>of</strong> the voting system<br />

overall would make for more accurate elections. As the Brennan Center for Justice<br />

reports, “poor ballot design and instructions have caused the loss <strong>of</strong> tens and sometimes<br />

hundreds <strong>of</strong> thousands <strong>of</strong> votes in nearly every election year…All too <strong>of</strong>ten, the loss <strong>of</strong><br />

votes and rate <strong>of</strong> errors resulting from [mistakes filling out the ballot] are greater than the<br />

margin <strong>of</strong> victory between the two leading candidates.” 52 In addition, ballot<br />

simplification, by creating a simpler, less frustrating voting process, would improve voter<br />

satisfaction and trust in the electoral process.<br />

The problems raised by <strong>New</strong> York’s ballot design were highlighted in a statewide<br />

survey conducted by the LWVNYS in November 2010, on voters’ experiences with the<br />

new voting machines. Almost 20% <strong>of</strong> the approximately 1100 responses from 47<br />

counties, including the 5 counties in <strong>New</strong> York City, indicated problems completing the<br />

paper ballot part <strong>of</strong> the voting process. Even survey respondents who did not have<br />

significant problems in filling out their ballot made comments that indicated the need for<br />

improvements to the ballot design, including:<br />

• Need for better delineation between <strong>of</strong>fices<br />

• Difficulty in filling out the ballot where the <strong>of</strong>fice required voting for more than<br />

one candidate.<br />

• Print was too small; contrasting fonts and shades <strong>of</strong> black/grey should be used;<br />

size <strong>of</strong> oval or square should be larger (difficult for persons with arthritis, etc.)<br />

• There should be one type <strong>of</strong> marking pen for the ballot (some counties used one<br />

type for the front <strong>of</strong> ballot and another for the reverse side).<br />

• Some types <strong>of</strong> markers bled through the ballot, compromising privacy.<br />

• <strong>Voter</strong>s were not told about magnifying lenses (where they were available). <strong>Voter</strong>s<br />

who were aware <strong>of</strong> the aids found them beneficial.<br />

December 2011 Page | 11

<strong>League</strong> <strong>of</strong> <strong>Women</strong> <strong>Voter</strong>s <strong>of</strong> <strong>New</strong> York State <strong>Increasing</strong> <strong>Voter</strong> <strong>Participation</strong><br />

• Usability <strong>of</strong> marking areas on the ballot (squares vs. ovals and marking with an<br />

“X” vs. filling in the oval).<br />

• Write-in space is not large enough<br />

Simplifying the design <strong>of</strong> the ballots need not be a lengthy or costly process. In<br />

2008, based on the new ballot guidelines from the Election Assistance Commission, the<br />

American Institute for Graphic Arts (AIGA) started a project called “Design for<br />

Democracy.” 53 Through using their knowledge <strong>of</strong> graphic arts and the ballot design<br />

guidelines, the AIGA came up with several easy changes to make to ballots. Among other<br />

things, they recommended:<br />

1. Clarifying page numbers on the ballot and plainly showing when there is<br />

another page to turn to;<br />

2. Using clear and simple instructional language, based on a fourth-grade reading<br />

level, for example: “Vote for 1” as opposed to “Vote for not more than<br />

one”;<br />

3. Adding accurate and meaningful images to the ballot (instead <strong>of</strong> confusing and<br />

unnecessary party logos);<br />

4. Using a clear page design with starkly delineated columns that facilitate top-<br />

down and left-to-right reading, and creating a clear hierarchy <strong>of</strong><br />

information through the use <strong>of</strong> differentiated headings, sub-headings, etc.;<br />

and<br />

5. Including summary versions <strong>of</strong> referenda (simple language)<br />

The <strong>New</strong> York Times interactive online article “How Design Can Save Democracy”<br />

provides a thorough overview <strong>of</strong> some <strong>of</strong> the issues with older ballots in direct<br />

comparison to the AIGA’s new recommendations. 54<br />

<strong>Voter</strong> Education and Poll Worker Training<br />

In addition to fixing the design <strong>of</strong> the ballot, reformers emphasize increasing voter<br />

education as well as better poll worker training to enable poll workers to provide more<br />

effective assistance to voters on Election Day. One argument for increasing voter<br />

education is that doing so may decrease the demographic disparities associated with<br />

voting in general. Elections should not be decided on the basis <strong>of</strong> whose supporters are<br />

better able to navigate the ballot. Providing voters with better education about the ballots<br />

and how to complete them effectively would likely result in a higher number <strong>of</strong> elderly,<br />

minority, disabled or less educated voters (who might otherwise have trouble filling out<br />

their ballots) understanding the nuts and bolts <strong>of</strong> the voting process before Election Day<br />

and voting more accurately.<br />

Robert Richie, director <strong>of</strong> FairVote, an organization that researches electoral<br />

reforms and aims to increase voter turnout, argues that publishing a voter guide and<br />

sending it to all households <strong>of</strong> registered voters or putting it online in an interactive<br />

format could increase voter knowledge <strong>of</strong> the electoral system, the candidates, and how<br />

voting works, therefore making voters more confident in the process and eventually<br />

December 2011 Page | 12

<strong>League</strong> <strong>of</strong> <strong>Women</strong> <strong>Voter</strong>s <strong>of</strong> <strong>New</strong> York State <strong>Increasing</strong> <strong>Voter</strong> <strong>Participation</strong><br />

causing an increase in rates <strong>of</strong> voter participation. 55 These guides can inform citizens on<br />

everything from the mechanics <strong>of</strong> the election process to knowledge about the candidates<br />

or any ballot initiatives. Studies show that this method is especially effective in<br />

jurisdictions having a large number <strong>of</strong> complicated ballot measures. 56 Many other<br />

countries and some states have published these voter guides to great effect, and it has<br />

become a trademark service provided by chapters <strong>of</strong> the <strong>League</strong> <strong>of</strong> <strong>Women</strong> <strong>Voter</strong>s all<br />

over the country. <strong>New</strong> York City’s Campaign Finance Board, which administers a public<br />

financing program for <strong>New</strong> York City races, is required to publish a voter guide for city<br />

elections that is mailed to each registered household. In 2011 LWVNYS launched<br />

VOTE411.org, an online guide for election-related information.<br />

Similarly, another method <strong>of</strong> simplifying the voting process on Election Day is to<br />

publish a sample ballot prior to the date <strong>of</strong> the election, whether online, in a newspaper,<br />

or through one <strong>of</strong> the voter guides mentioned above. A sample ballot that voters have<br />

reviewed at home can save time and confusion for voters at the polls on Election Day. 57<br />

These ballots could even be brought to the polls by the voters, therefore ensuring that<br />

they make their intended choice even under possibly stressful circumstances, with<br />

appropriate safeguards against attempted use as actual ballots. The Brennan Center for<br />

Justice supports publishing early ballots for the general public, since it gives voters time<br />

to become acquainted with potential problems on the ballot well before they cast their<br />

vote, leading to more accurate votes. 58 Based on information received from the BOE,<br />

ballots should be available to voters from county boards in advance <strong>of</strong> elections, but not<br />

all counties currently have websites on which to post them. A November 2010 survey by<br />

Citizens Union <strong>of</strong> the City <strong>of</strong> <strong>New</strong> York showed the sample ballot practices in the county<br />

boards. 59<br />

<strong>Voter</strong> education can also help to simply remind voters <strong>of</strong> what day Election Day<br />

falls upon. Campaigns such as the “November 2” campaign <strong>of</strong> the 2004 election or the<br />

“Rock the Vote” campaigns <strong>of</strong> recent elections can move non-voters to action simply by<br />

making sure that they are aware <strong>of</strong> the election and its date. 60 Through campaigns such as<br />

these, voters can take a step away from the constant barrage <strong>of</strong> red vs. blue rhetoric and<br />

simply be reminded <strong>of</strong> the importance <strong>of</strong> getting to the polls and voting.<br />

Finally, voter education is seen by many as a possible way to increase the number<br />

<strong>of</strong> minority voters registering to vote. As was mentioned in the previous section, many <strong>of</strong><br />

the methods that have been implemented in order to increase voter participation may in<br />

fact increase participation for those voters already registered to vote while not<br />

significantly changing participation in those demographics with lower numbers <strong>of</strong><br />

registered voters. Better voter education could serve the dual purpose <strong>of</strong> encouraging<br />

people <strong>of</strong> all demographics to register to vote, as well as encouraging those already<br />

registered to go out and exercise their right to vote.<br />

Better poll worker training can also be part <strong>of</strong> the effort to assist voter education<br />

on Election Day and improve elections. In the LWVNYS 2010 voter survey, many <strong>of</strong> the<br />

respondents felt that they did not receive adequate instructions on how to complete the<br />

ballot or the voting process; additional training <strong>of</strong> poll workers could facilitate the<br />

December 2011 Page | 13

<strong>League</strong> <strong>of</strong> <strong>Women</strong> <strong>Voter</strong>s <strong>of</strong> <strong>New</strong> York State <strong>Increasing</strong> <strong>Voter</strong> <strong>Participation</strong><br />

process for voters. Survey respondents also raised the need for better-trained elections<br />

personnel, citing age or lack <strong>of</strong> experience as negative factors in the overall voting<br />

process.<br />

Poll worker training and staffing is a key part <strong>of</strong> the election cycle that may cost<br />

money but clearly facilitates voter participation in the election. Although it may seem<br />

obvious that poll worker training is an important part <strong>of</strong> the electoral process, some<br />

states, including Virginia and Pennsylvania, do not have laws that require that poll<br />

workers be trained. 61 Inadequate poll worker training can and has led directly to<br />

problems with elections. Even in some states where poll worker training is mandated, the<br />

training is <strong>of</strong>ten insufficient to actually inform the workers <strong>of</strong> what their options are in<br />

case <strong>of</strong> an emergency. For example, in Denver during the 2006 elections, the Internetbased<br />

poll book that the poll workers had been using to check in the voters failed. There<br />

was an alternative solution to this poll book, but the poll workers had not been trained on<br />

it. 62 <strong>New</strong> York has a dedicated account <strong>of</strong> time-limited money appropriated through the<br />

Help America Vote Act for poll worker training by the county boards <strong>of</strong> election.<br />

Counties should be encouraged to take advantage <strong>of</strong> this money that could help them<br />

provide substantial training <strong>of</strong> the poll workers at little or no cost to the county. This<br />

could help to ensure that all poll workers receive uniform training in <strong>New</strong> York election<br />

law and procedures and in assisting voters.<br />

Next Steps<br />

Short-term<br />

Some <strong>of</strong> the ideas discussed in this paper can be implemented fairly quickly and<br />

easily. We anticipate that the reforms that have the greatest chance <strong>of</strong> being implemented<br />

quickly relate to ballot design. Many <strong>of</strong> the problems with ballot design, such as<br />

confusing layout, cramped fonts, and too many languages, can be changed easily<br />

according to the BOE within the current legislative parameters that the ballot must meet.<br />

An example <strong>of</strong> a change that could be made to the ballot is with respect to the number <strong>of</strong><br />

languages. The BOE mandates that the ballots in other languages must follow the<br />

“English +1” rule in their layout – they must have English along with the other language<br />

on the ballot. However, there is no mandate that every single language must be printed on<br />

the same ballot. Having more than two languages on one ballot is a decision that was<br />

made by the <strong>New</strong> York City BOE. 63 Having all <strong>of</strong> the languages on one ballot makes<br />

designing and printing the ballots easier, but unfortunately results in more confusing<br />

ballots for the voters. Some other changes, with respect to party emblems and capital<br />

letters, would require relatively straightforward legislation to change.<br />

Better voter education and poll worker training are additional changes that could<br />

be made within the existing legislative parameters. The importance <strong>of</strong> thorough and<br />

comprehensive poll worker training should not be underestimated in terms <strong>of</strong> ensuring<br />

that voters have an efficient and enjoyable voting experience. County BOEs currently<br />

have a certain amount <strong>of</strong> money at their disposal to educate the voters, but in most<br />

December 2011 Page | 14

<strong>League</strong> <strong>of</strong> <strong>Women</strong> <strong>Voter</strong>s <strong>of</strong> <strong>New</strong> York State <strong>Increasing</strong> <strong>Voter</strong> <strong>Participation</strong><br />

counties it is not being fully used. 64 Outside organizations such as the <strong>League</strong> could<br />

develop educational programs for poll workers and voters and bring them to county<br />

boards in order to help them decide how to use their resources more effectively.<br />

We also believe that in a world that is moving away from paper systems and<br />

towards electronic ways <strong>of</strong> doing business, one idea that has particular promise is moving<br />

the state to paperless registration, including the possibility <strong>of</strong> online registration.<br />

Although there would be up-front costs involved in upgrading technology, the experience<br />

<strong>of</strong> other states makes it clear that the electronically collecting voter registrations from the<br />

DMV and other state agencies and providing it to county BOEs would both ultimately<br />

save money and increase accuracy <strong>of</strong> the voter rolls.<br />

Long-term<br />

Enacting some <strong>of</strong> the more involved or ambitious reforms can and will take more<br />

time, energy, and political will. Changes that require more complex legislation or an<br />

amendment to the constitution, such as no-excuse absentee ballots, EDR, or some form <strong>of</strong><br />

early voting, would take much longer and have greater risk <strong>of</strong> being lost in political<br />

battles and partisan rhetoric. We hope this process <strong>of</strong> public discussion is the first step in<br />

a long process to help <strong>New</strong> York State move towards the forefront <strong>of</strong> election reform.<br />

<strong>New</strong> York will require its own unique comprehensive reform effort in order to have the<br />

most effective system for its population.<br />

December 2011 Page | 15

<strong>League</strong> <strong>of</strong> <strong>Women</strong> <strong>Voter</strong>s <strong>of</strong> <strong>New</strong> York State <strong>Increasing</strong> <strong>Voter</strong> <strong>Participation</strong><br />

Endnotes<br />

1 <strong>New</strong> York City. “2010 Mayor’s Report on <strong>Voter</strong> Access in <strong>New</strong> York.” 2010. Available at:<br />

http://www.nyc.gov/portal/site/nycgov. Sourced from George Mason University Elections Project<br />

(Turnout defined as Votes for Highest Office divided by Voting Eligible Population).<br />

2 National Conference <strong>of</strong> State Legislatures. “Absentee and Early Voting.” July 2011. Available at:<br />

http://www.ncsl.org/?tabid=16604. National Conference <strong>of</strong> State Legislatures; “Electronic (or Online)<br />

<strong>Voter</strong> Registration.” October 2011. Available at: http://www.ncsl.org/default.aspx?tabid=18421;<br />

National Conference <strong>of</strong> State Legislatures. “Same Day <strong>Voter</strong> Registration.” September 2011. All three<br />

reports are attached in Appendices 1-3 below.<br />

3 Ponor<strong>of</strong>f, Christopher. “<strong>Voter</strong> Registration In A Digital Age.” Wendy Weiser ed. The Brennan Center for<br />

Justice, 2010, page 3. DMV registrations constitute the largest number <strong>of</strong> states using automated<br />

registration. Seven states have fully automated their voter registration process at DMVs. Available at:<br />

http://www.brennancenter.org/content/resource/voter_registration_in_a_digital_age.<br />

4 Ponor<strong>of</strong>f 4.<br />

5 Ponor<strong>of</strong>f 5.<br />

6 Notes from a <strong>League</strong> <strong>of</strong> <strong>Women</strong> <strong>Voter</strong>s <strong>of</strong> <strong>New</strong> York State meeting with NYS BOE Directors Robert<br />

Brehm and Todd Valentine and staff John Conklin and Tom Connolly, 30 August 2011.<br />

7 Benjamin, Gerald, Blair Horner, John Kaehny and Lawrence Norden. “Executive Orders: Actions the<br />

Governor can take to make <strong>New</strong> York government more open, accountable and democratic.” Reinvent<br />

Albany. November 2010, page 60, 61. Available at: http://reinventalbany.org/initiatives/executive-orders.<br />

8 National Conference <strong>of</strong> State Legislatures. “Online <strong>Voter</strong> Registration: Coming Soon to a State Near<br />

You?” The Canvass States and Election Reform 21 (2011), page 2. Available at:<br />

www.ncsl.org/documents/legismgt/.../Canvass_June_2011_No21.pdf. Legislation providing for online<br />

registration passed in Hawaii was vetoed by the Governor on July 12, 2011.<br />

9 supra 4.<br />

10 Ponor<strong>of</strong>f 14.<br />

11 Rosenberg, Jennifer S. and Margaret Chen. “Expanding Democracy: <strong>Voter</strong> Registration Around the<br />

World.” The Brennan Center for Justice, 2009, page 9. Available at:<br />

http://www.brennancenter.org/content/resource/expanding_democracy_voter_registration_around_the_wor<br />

ld.<br />

12 Pew Center on the States, “Upgrading Democracy: Improving America’s Election Systems by<br />

Modernizing States’ <strong>Voter</strong> Registration Systems”, November 2010, page 4. Available at:<br />

http://www.pewcenteronthestates.org/report_detail.aspx?id=85899359596<br />

13 NYC BOE has started to share its database with the state BOE.<br />

14 Notes from LWVNY meeting with the NYS BOE.<br />

15 McDonald, Michael P. "<strong>Voter</strong> Turnout in the 2010 Midterm Election," The Forum: Vol. 8: Iss. 4, Article<br />

8. (2010), page 3, 4. Available at: http://www.bepress.com/forum/vol8/iss4/art8.<br />

16 Weiser, Wendy R. and Lawrence Norden. “Voting Law Changes in 2012.” The Brennan Center for<br />

Justice, 2011, page 25. Available at:<br />

http://www.brennancenter.org/content/resource/voting_law_changes_in_2012. The National Conference <strong>of</strong><br />

State Legislatures, “Same-day <strong>Voter</strong> Registration.”<br />

17 Minnite, Lorraine. “Election Day Registration: A Study on <strong>Voter</strong> Fraud Allegations and Findings on<br />

<strong>Voter</strong> Roll security.” Demos. 6 September 2007. Available at: http://www.demos.org/publication/electionday-registration-study-voter-fraud-allegations-and-findings-voter-roll-security.<br />

18 <strong>New</strong> York City “2010 Mayor’s Report on <strong>Voter</strong> Access in <strong>New</strong> York.” Appendix 1.<br />

19 Leighly, Jan E. and Jonathan Nagler. “The Effect <strong>of</strong> Non-Precinct Voting Reforms on<br />

Turnout: 1972-2008.” ElectionOnline.org. 15 January 2009, page 13, 14. Available at:<br />

http://www.pewcenteronthestates.org/report_detail.aspx?id=58252.<br />

20 For a good survey <strong>of</strong> the recent literature see: Gronke, Paul, Eva Galanes-Rosenbaum and Peter A.<br />

Miller. "From Ballot Box to Mail Box: Early Voting and Turnout." In Democracy in the States:<br />

Experiments in Election Reform, ed. Cain, Tolbert, and Donovan. Washington, D.C.: Brookings Institute<br />

Press, 2008. Available at http://www.earlyvoting.net/research.<br />

21 McDonald 4. The states above the median are California, Colorado, Oregon, and Washington.<br />

December 2011 Page | 1

<strong>League</strong> <strong>of</strong> <strong>Women</strong> <strong>Voter</strong>s <strong>of</strong> <strong>New</strong> York State <strong>Increasing</strong> <strong>Voter</strong> <strong>Participation</strong><br />

22 See for example, Brooks, David and Gail Collins. “Do You Really Want to Vote for That Candidate?”<br />

The <strong>New</strong> York Times Opinionator, 29 September 2010.<br />

23<br />

Neeley, Grant W. and Lilliard E. Richardson, Jr. “Who is Early Voting? An Individual<br />

Level Examination.” The Social Science Journal 338 (2001): 381-392, page 382..<br />

24<br />

Gronke, Paul, Eva Galanes-Rosenbaum, Peter A. Miller, and Daniel T<strong>of</strong>fey.<br />

“Convenience Voting.” Annual Review <strong>of</strong> Political Science 11 (2008): 437-455, page 438.<br />

25<br />

Gronke, “From Ballot Box to Mail Box: Early Voting and Turnout,” 17.<br />

26<br />

Weiser 20.<br />

27<br />

Reed College. The Early Voting Information Center. Available at: http://www.earlyvoting.net. 2011.<br />

28<br />

Stewart, Charles III. “Losing Votes by Mail.” <strong>New</strong> York University Journal <strong>of</strong> Legislation and Public<br />

Policy 13 (2010): 573-602, page 582.<br />

29 Patterson, Samuel C. and Gregory A. Caldeira. “Mailing In the Vote: Correlates and<br />

Consequences <strong>of</strong> Absentee Voting.” American Journal <strong>of</strong> Political Science 29<br />

(1985): 766-788, page 786.<br />

30 Berinsky, Adam J. “The Perverse Consequences <strong>of</strong> Electoral Reform in the United<br />

States.” American Politics Research 33 (2005): 471-491, page 474.<br />

31 Bergman, Elizabeth, Philip Yates, and Elaine Ginnold. “How Does Vote By Mail<br />

Affect <strong>Voter</strong>s? A natural experiment examining individual-level turnout.” Pew Center on<br />

the States: Make Voting Work, 2009, page 3.<br />

32 Gronke, From Ballot Box to Mail Box: Early Voting and Turnout,14.<br />

33 Fortier, John C., “Absentee Voting for Convenience” The Philadelphia Inquirer, 2 November 2006.<br />

34 Gronke, “Convenience Voting,” page 449.<br />

35 The National Conference <strong>of</strong> State Legislatures, “Absentee and Early Voting.”<br />

36 United States Elections Project. “Final 2008 Early Voting Statistics.” George Mason University.<br />

Available at: http://elections.gmu.edu/Early_Voting_2008_Final.html. 2011.<br />

37 <strong>League</strong> <strong>of</strong> <strong>Women</strong> <strong>Voter</strong>s. “Helping America Vote. Thinking Outside the Ballot Box:<br />

Innovations for the Polling Place.” October 2006, page 7.<br />

38 LWV 6. In addition to the increased participation in early voting, election <strong>of</strong>ficials in Clark County have<br />

boasted about the administrative savings they have experienced. One <strong>of</strong>ficial estimated that without early<br />

voting, the county would have to purchase 2,700 new voting machines to handle the added traffic on<br />

Election Day. Clark County has saved an estimated eight million dollars already by implementing this kind<br />

<strong>of</strong> EIP voting.<br />

39 Berinsky 480.<br />

40 Bergman 4.<br />

41 Bergman 5.<br />

42 Bergman 4.<br />

43 Bergman 4.<br />

44 This mandated VBM system had an especially negative effect on urban and minority voters. It is<br />

estimated that the odds <strong>of</strong> an urban voter actually voting decreased by 50% as a result <strong>of</strong> California’s<br />

mandatory system, and the odds <strong>of</strong> a minority voter (Asian or Hispanic) voting decreased by 30%. This<br />

may perhaps be attributed to the fact that these urban and minority populations are more mobile, and have<br />

less access to regular mail service.<br />

45 Maland, Elizabeth. “Followup Report: Mail-Only Ballot Election Issues <strong>of</strong> <strong>Voter</strong> Turnout and Fraud.”<br />

San Diego Office <strong>of</strong> the City Clerk, 27 June 2007, page 1.<br />

46 Maland 2.<br />

47 Norden, Lawrence, David Kimball, Whitney Quesenbery, and Margaret Chen. “Better Ballots.” The<br />

Brennan Center for Justice, 2008, page 9. Available at:<br />

http://www.brennancenter.org/content/resource/better_ballots.<br />

48 U.S. Election Assistance Commission. “Effective Designs for the Administration <strong>of</strong><br />

Federal Elections.” The United States Election Assistance Commission, 2007, sections 1.4, 2.3, 2.4.<br />

49 U.S. Election Assistance Commission 2.4.<br />

50 Norden 8.<br />

51 Richie, Robert. “Leave No <strong>Voter</strong> Behind: Seeking 100 Percent <strong>Voter</strong> Registration and<br />

Effective Civic Education.” Wiley Periodicals, Inc, 2007.<br />

December 2011 Page | 2

<strong>League</strong> <strong>of</strong> <strong>Women</strong> <strong>Voter</strong>s <strong>of</strong> <strong>New</strong> York State <strong>Increasing</strong> <strong>Voter</strong> <strong>Participation</strong><br />

52<br />

Norden 9.<br />

53<br />

Design for Democracy, www.AIGA.org.<br />

54<br />

Grefe, Richard and Jessica Friedman Hewitt. “How Design Can Save Democracy.” <strong>New</strong> York Times, 28<br />

August 2008.<br />

55<br />

Richie 1.<br />

56<br />

Richie 6.<br />

57<br />

Richie 7.<br />

58<br />

Norden 14.<br />

59<br />

Citizens Union <strong>of</strong> the City <strong>of</strong> <strong>New</strong> York. “County Boards <strong>of</strong> Elections and Sample Ballots.” November<br />

2010. Available at: http://www.citizensunion.org/site_res_view_template.aspx?id=f9735e27-7a97-4635-<br />

8d75-ba92d738e018.<br />

60<br />

Nichols, John. “Just a T-shirt Away.” The Nation, 25 October 2004, page 4.<br />

61<br />

Wang, Tova, Samuel Oliker-Friedland, Melissa Reiss and Kristen Oshyn. “Voting in 2008: Ten Swing<br />

States: A Report From the Common Cause Education Fund.” Common Cause and The Century Foundation.<br />

2008. Page 25. Available at:<br />

http://www.commoncause.org/site/apps/nlnet/content2.aspx?c=dkLNK1MQIwG&b=4773613&ct=592234<br />

3<br />

62<br />

Wang 26.<br />

63<br />

Notes from LWVNY meeting with the NYS BOE, August 30, 2011.<br />

64<br />

Notes from LWVNY meeting with the NYS BOE, August 30, 2011.<br />

December 2011 Page | 3

APPENDIX 1-2 1-1<br />

National Conference <strong>of</strong> State Legislatures<br />

http://www.ncsl.org/default.aspx?tabid=18421<br />

Electronic(or Online) <strong>Voter</strong> Registration<br />

Last updated October 17, 2011<br />

Nine states currently <strong>of</strong>fer online paperless voter registration (Arizona, Colorado, Indiana, Kansas, Louisiana, Nevada,<br />

Oregon, Utah, and Washington). In addition, California and Maryland have passed legislation facilitating online voter<br />

registration, but they have not yet begun registering voters electronically.<br />

Arizona led the way with this innovation, implementing their electronic voter registration program in 2003.<br />

Washington followed with authorizing legislation in 2007 and implementation in 2008. In most cases, the states rely<br />

on digitized signatures already on file with divisions <strong>of</strong> motor vehicles.<br />

Arizona Reports Success with Electronic <strong>Voter</strong> Registration<br />

Arizona first implemented online voter registration in 2003, and has reported success with their program.<br />

The secretary <strong>of</strong> state reports that over 70 percent <strong>of</strong> all voter registrations are now performed online, and that the state<br />

saw an increase <strong>of</strong> 9.5 percent in voter registrations from 2002 to 2004 with the implementation <strong>of</strong> online registration.<br />

Arizona also reports cost savings by eliminating the data entry process for state and county employees that a paperbased<br />

system requires, as well as increased accuracy in its voter rolls. The costs associated with a paper registration<br />

were 83 cents, while the cost <strong>of</strong> an online registration was 3 cents, according to the 2010 report by the Pew Center , on<br />

the states viewable at http://www.pewcenteronthestates.org/report_detail?id=58215<br />

Online voter registrations require a driver's license number or the last four digits <strong>of</strong> a social security number, and the<br />

inclusion <strong>of</strong> this data in all online registration allows for quick and accurate checks for duplicate records. For more<br />

details on online voter registration, see the June 2011 issue <strong>of</strong> NCSL's elections newsletter, Canvass at<br />


States with Online <strong>Voter</strong><br />

Registration<br />

APPENDIX 1-2<br />

• Arizona -- implemented in 2002; see https://servicearizona.com/webapp/evoter/selectLanguage<br />

• California -- passed in 2008 (SB 381);this law is to be implemented in 2014 or after; passed in 2011<br />

(SB 397) permitting counties to implement online registration<br />

• Colorado -- passed in 2009 (HB 1160); see https://www.sos.state.co.us/<strong>Voter</strong>/secuReg<strong>Voter</strong>Intro.do<br />

• Indiana -- passed in 2009 (HB 1346); see<br />

https://indianavoters.in.gov/PublicSite/OVR/Introduction.aspx?Link=Polling&AspxAutoDetectCookieSupport=1<br />

• Kansas -- implemented in 2009; see https://www.kdor.org/voterregistration/Default.aspx<br />

• Louisiana -- passed in 2009 (HB 520); see http://www.sos.la.gov/tabid/68/Default.aspx<br />

• Maryland -- passed in 2011 (HB 740); implementation date not specified in law<br />

• Nevada -- see http://nvsos.gov/index.aspx?page=703<br />

• Oregon -- passed in 2009 (HB 2386); see<br />

https://secure.sos.state.or.us/orestar/vr/register.do?lang=eng&source=SOS<br />

• Utah -- passed in 2009 (SB 25); see<br />

https://secure.utah.gov/voterreg/index.html;jsessionid=a142a0d90b8ba15218199019b55d<br />

• Washington -- passed in 2007 (HB 1528); see http://wei.secstate.wa.gov/olvrsite/

APPENDIX 2-1<br />

Same-Day <strong>Voter</strong> Registration<br />

Eight states have same-day registration (SDR), whereby any qualified resident <strong>of</strong> the state can go to<br />

the polls on election day then register and vote. Two others allow voters to register and cast a vote<br />

during the early voting period. In most other states, voters must register by a deadline prior to<br />

Election Day. The deadline varies by state, with 30 days before the election being a common date.<br />

Same-Day Registration States<br />

Year Enacted<br />

Idaho 1994<br />

Iowa 2007<br />

Maine* 1973<br />

Minnesota 1974<br />

Montana 2005<br />

<strong>New</strong> Hampshire 1996<br />

Wisconsin 1971<br />

Wyoming 1994<br />

*Maine’s same-day registration law, enacted in 1973, was repealed by the legislature in 2011. A people’s veto<br />

<strong>of</strong> the 2011 law will appear on the November 8, 2011 ballot as Question 1. If voters reject the new law, sameday<br />

registration will remain the law in Maine. If they approve the new law passed in 2011, same-day<br />

registration will be repealed.<br />

Since 2007, North Carolina has allowed voters to register and vote on the same day at early voting<br />

locations that are open from 19 days before the election to 3 days before the election. Ohio also<br />

allows same-day registration during early voting, which is conducted beginning on the last Tuesday<br />

in September through the first Monday in October. These two states do not permit same-day<br />

registration on Election Day, however.<br />

Advantages:<br />

• Same day registration leads to increased voter turnout. In the six SDR states that had SDR prior<br />

to 2006 and North Dakota (which has no voter registration), turnout is 10 percent to 17 percent<br />

higher than the national average. Minnesota estimates that election day registrations account<br />

for five percent to ten percent <strong>of</strong> voter turnout.

APPENDIX 2-2<br />

• Allowing people to register the same day they intend to vote is more convenient. It particularly<br />

benefits people who have difficulty getting to an <strong>of</strong>fice to register because <strong>of</strong> work or<br />

transportation conflicts and those who have recently moved.<br />

• States have more control over their voter registration rolls because they are not subject to<br />

National <strong>Voter</strong> Registration Act (NVRA) purging restrictions.<br />

Disadvantages:<br />

• SDR can be costly, because it requires:<br />

• additional poll workers,<br />

• additional ballots,<br />

• additional voting equipment, and<br />

• verification certificates and investigation costs.<br />

• SDR must be adopted along with safeguards to prevent fraud.<br />

Same-Day Registration and Fraud<br />

State election <strong>of</strong>ficials from the same-day registration states and North Dakota contend that their<br />

registration procedures have not resulted in increased fraud. Safeguards against fraud in the SDR<br />

states:<br />

• Require picture identification at polls.<br />

• Require additional identification to verify address.<br />

• Segregate SDR ballots, and refrain from counting them until verification certificates have been<br />

sent out and undeliverable ones are returned.<br />

• Restrict sites at which one can register on election day.<br />

• Implement minimum residency requirements.<br />

• Prohibit changing party affiliation on primary day.<br />

• State and enforce a deterrent penalty for fraud.

APPENDIX 3-1<br />

Updated July 22, 2011<br />

Note: Map based on information<br />

obtained from<br />

http://www.ncsl.org/default.aspx?<br />


Update July 22, 2011<br />

APPENDIX 3-2<br />

Absentee Voting and Early Voting<br />

http://www.ncsl.org/default.aspx?tabid=16604<br />

States <strong>of</strong>fer three ways for voters to cast a ballot before Election Day:<br />

1. Early Voting: In 32 states and the District <strong>of</strong> Columbia, any qualified voter may cast a ballot in person during a designated period<br />

prior to Election Day. No excuse or justification is required.<br />

2. Absentee Voting: All states will mail an absentee ballot to certain voters. The voter may return the ballot by mail or in person. In 21<br />

states, an excuse is required, while 27 states and the District <strong>of</strong> Columbia permit any qualified voter to vote absentee without <strong>of</strong>fering an<br />

excuse. Some states <strong>of</strong>fer a permanent absentee ballot list: once a voter asks to be added to the list, s/he will automatically receive an<br />

absentee ballot for all future elections.<br />

3. Mail Voting: A ballot is automatically mailed to every eligible voter (no request or application is necessary), and the state does not<br />

use traditional poll sites that <strong>of</strong>fer in-person voting on Election Day. Two states use mail voting.<br />

Overview<br />

The table below details the types <strong>of</strong> pre-election day voting that is available in each state. Information on the details <strong>of</strong> each category may<br />

be found below the table.<br />

State In-Person<br />

Early Voting No-Excuse Absentee Absentee; Excuse<br />

Required<br />

X<br />

All-Mail Voting<br />

Alabama<br />

Alaska X X (a)<br />

Arizona X X (a)<br />

Arkansas X X (a)<br />

California X X (a)<br />

Colorado X X (a)<br />

Connecticut X<br />

Delaware X<br />

D.C. X X<br />

Florida X X (a)<br />

Georgia X X<br />

Hawaii X X (a)<br />

Idaho X X (a)<br />

Illinois X X<br />

Indiana X X<br />

Iowa X X<br />

Kansas X X (a)

APPENDIX 3-3<br />

Kentucky X<br />

Louisiana X X<br />

Maine X X<br />

Maryland X X<br />

Massachusetts X<br />

Michigan X<br />

Minnesota X (a)<br />

Mississippi X<br />

Missouri X (a)<br />

Montana X X (a)<br />

Nebraska X X (a)<br />

Nevada X X (a)<br />

<strong>New</strong> Hampshire X<br />

<strong>New</strong> Jersey X (a)<br />

<strong>New</strong> Mexico X X (a)<br />

<strong>New</strong> York X<br />

North Carolina X X<br />

North Dakota X X (a)<br />

Ohio X X<br />

Oklahoma X X<br />

Oregon X<br />

Pennsylvania X<br />

Rhode Island X<br />

South Carolina X<br />

South Dakota X X<br />

Tennessee X X<br />

Texas X X<br />

Utah X X<br />

Vermont X X<br />

Virginia X<br />

Washington X<br />

West Virginia X X<br />

Wisconsin X X<br />

Wyoming X X<br />

TOTAL 32 states + DC 27 states + DC 21 states 2 states<br />

Source: National Conference <strong>of</strong> State Legislatures, July 2011<br />

(a) Certain elections may be held entirely by mail. The circumstances under which all-mail elections are permitted vary from state to<br />

state.<br />

Update July 22, 2011

APPENDIX 3-4<br />

Early Voting<br />

Two-thirds <strong>of</strong> the states--32, plus the District <strong>of</strong> Columbia--<strong>of</strong>fer some sort <strong>of</strong> early voting. Early voting allows<br />

voters to visit an election <strong>of</strong>ficial’s <strong>of</strong>fice or, in some states, other satellite voting locations, and cast a vote in person<br />

without <strong>of</strong>fering an excuse for why the voter is unable to vote on election day. Satellite voting locations vary by<br />

state, and may include other county and state <strong>of</strong>fices (besides the election <strong>of</strong>ficial’s <strong>of</strong>fice), grocery stores, shopping<br />

malls, schools, libraries, and other locations.<br />

The time period for early voting varies from state to state:<br />

• The date on which early voting begins may be as early as 45 days before the election, or as late as the<br />

Friday before the election. The average starting time for early voting across all 32 states is 22 days before<br />

the election.<br />

• Early voting typically ends just a few days before Election Day: on the Thursday before the election in<br />

three states, the Friday before in nine states, the Saturday before in five states, and the Monday before<br />

Election Day in 11 states.<br />

• Early voting periods range in length from four days to 45 days; the average across all 32 states is 19 days.<br />

• At least 12 <strong>of</strong> the 32 early voting states require that early vote centers be open on at least one Saturday or<br />

Sunday during the early voting period. Others give county or local <strong>of</strong>ficials the authority to determine the<br />

hours for early voting.<br />

No-Excuse Absentee Voting<br />

Absentee voting is conducted by mail-in paper ballot prior to the day <strong>of</strong> the election. While all states <strong>of</strong>fer some<br />

version <strong>of</strong> it, there is quite a lot <strong>of</strong> variation in states’ procedures for absentee voting. For instance, some states <strong>of</strong>fer<br />

"no-excuse" absentee voting, allowing any registered voter to request an absentee without requiring that the voter<br />

state a reason for his/her desire to vote absentee. Other states permit voters to vote absentee only under a limited set<br />

<strong>of</strong> circumstances.<br />

The following 27 states and D.C. <strong>of</strong>fer "no-excuse" absentee voting:<br />

No-Excuse Absentee Voting<br />

Alaska Iowa North Carolina<br />

Arizona Kansas North Dakota<br />

California Maine Ohio<br />

Colorado Maryland Oklahoma<br />

District <strong>of</strong> Columbia Montana South Dakota<br />

Florida Nebraska Utah<br />

Georgia Nevada Vermont<br />

Hawaii <strong>New</strong> Jersey Wisconsin<br />

Idaho <strong>New</strong> Mexico Wyoming<br />

Illinois<br />

Source: National Conference <strong>of</strong> State Legislatures, July 2011

Permanent Absentee Voting<br />

APPENDIX 3-5<br />

Some states permit voters to join a permanent absentee voting list. Once a voter opts in, s/he will receive an absentee<br />

ballot automatically for all future elections. The states that <strong>of</strong>fer permanent absentee voting to any voter are:<br />

• Arizona<br />

• California<br />

• Colorado<br />

• District <strong>of</strong> Columbia<br />

• Hawaii<br />

• Montana<br />

• <strong>New</strong> Jersey<br />

• Utah<br />

At least seven states <strong>of</strong>fer permanent absentee status to a limited number <strong>of</strong> voters who meet certain criteria:<br />

• Alaska - voters who reside in a remote area where distance, terrain, or other natural conditions deny the<br />

voter reasonable access o the polling place<br />

• Delaware - military and overseas voters, and their spouses and dependents; voters who are ill or physically<br />

disabled; voters who are otherwise authorized by federal law to vote by absentee ballot<br />

• Kansas - voters with a permanent disability or an illness diagnosed as permanent<br />

• Massachusetts - permanently disabled voters<br />

• Minnesota - voters with a permanent illness or disability<br />

• Missouri - permanently disabled voters<br />

• West Virginia - voters who are permanently and totally disabled and unable to vote at the polls<br />

Mail Voting<br />

Two states -- Oregon and Washington -- conduct all elections by mail. A ballot is automatically mailed to every<br />

registered voter in advance <strong>of</strong> Election Day, and traditional in-person voting precincts are not available. Learn more<br />

about Oregon's vote-by-mail program at<br />

http://web.multco.us.elections<br />

17 states allow certain elections to be held by mail:<br />

• Alaska - Elections other than general, party primary or municipal<br />

• Arizona - Special districts may conduct elections by mail<br />

• Arkansas - Primary elections in which only one candidate has filed for the position by the filing deadline<br />

and there are no other ballot issues to be submitted for consideration<br />

• California - When there are 250 or fewer voters registered to vote in a precinct; and local, special or<br />

consolidated elections that meet certain criteria<br />

• Colorado - Elections that are not for recall and do not involve partisan candidates (except for primary<br />

elections), and are not held in conjunction with or on the same day as primaries or Congressional vacancy<br />

elections<br />

• Florida - Referendum elections at the county, city, school district or special district level; and the governor<br />

may call for a mail ballot election after issuing an executive order declaring a state <strong>of</strong> emergency or<br />

impending emergency

APPENDIX 3-6<br />

• Hawaii - Any federal, state, or county election held other than on the date <strong>of</strong> a regularly scheduled primary<br />

or general election<br />

• Idaho - A precinct which contains no more than 125 registered electors at the last general election may be<br />

designated by the board <strong>of</strong> county commissioners as a mail ballot precinct no later than April 1 in an evennumbered<br />

year<br />

• Kansas - Nonpartisan elections at which no candidate is elected, retained or recalled and which are not held<br />

on the same date as another election<br />

• Minnesota - Elections conducted by a municipality having fewer than 400 registered voters on June 1 <strong>of</strong> an<br />

election year and not located in a metropolitan county<br />

• Missouri - Nonpartisan issue elections at which no candidate is elected, retained or recalled and in which<br />

all qualified voters <strong>of</strong> one political subdivision are the only voters eligible to vote<br />

• Montana - Any election other than a regularly scheduled federal, state or county election; a special federal<br />

or state election, unless authorized by the legislature; or a regularly scheduled or special election when<br />

another election in the political subdivision is taking place at the polls on the same day<br />

• Nebraska - Special ballot measure elections that meet certain criteria, held by a political subdivision<br />

• Nevada - Whenever there were not more than 20 voters registered in a precinct for the last preceding<br />

general election<br />

• <strong>New</strong> Jersey - A municipality with a population <strong>of</strong> 500 or fewer persons, according to the latest federal<br />

decennial census, may conduct all elections by mail<br />

• <strong>New</strong> Mexico - Any bond election, any election on the imposition <strong>of</strong> a mill levy or a property tax rate for a<br />

specified purpose, or any special election at which no candidates are to be nominated for or elected to<br />

<strong>of</strong>fice<br />

• North Dakota - A county may conduct any election by mail<br />

Early and Absentee Voting in YOUR State<br />

Are you looking for information on how to vote early or by absentee ballot in an upcoming election? While NCSL<br />

is not involved in holding elections and cannot provide information or advice on how, when or where to vote in your<br />

state, we are pleased to provide this link to a page which will direct you to the answers you need regarding your<br />

state's laws: http://www.canivote.org<br />

Military <strong>Voter</strong>s<br />

All states permit members <strong>of</strong> the military who are stationed overseas, their dependents, and other U.S. citizens living<br />

abroad to vote by absentee ballot. For more information, please visit the overseas Vote Foundation at<br />


Bibliography<br />

Alexander, Kim. “The California <strong>Voter</strong>s’ Experience: What Works for Them, What Does<br />

Not Work, and Where to Go From Here.” California Forward, 29 October 2008.<br />

Benjamin, Gerald, Blair Horner, John Kaehny and Lawrence Norden. “Executive Orders:<br />

Actions the Governor can take to make <strong>New</strong> York government more open,<br />

accountable and democratic.” Reinvent Albany. November 2010.<br />

Berinsky, Adam J. “The Perverse Consequences <strong>of</strong> Electoral Reform in the United<br />

States.” American Politics Research 33 (2005): 471-491.<br />

Bergman, Elizabeth, Philip Yates, and Elaine Ginnold. “How Does Vote By Mail Affect<br />

<strong>Voter</strong>s? A natural experiment examining individual-level turnout.” Pew Center on<br />

the States: Make Voting Work, 2009.<br />

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