Voter turnout surges with reliable mail service regardless of state laws

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When the postal service works better, people are more likely to vote – according to new research.

The study published in the Election Law Journal finds efficient postal service increases voter turnout regardless of a state’s mail voting laws.

Some states have passed more restrictive mail-in voting laws since the false accusations of voter fraud in the 2020 election.

Author of the research, Michael Ritter – assistant professor of political science at Washington State University – said the link is strong between good mail service and voting probability. “Which indicates that the postal system is a critical factor,” said Ritter, “in structuring the ability of mail voting to promote higher voter turnout at the individual level in the country.”

Ritter said mail speed can determine whether a ballot makes it to an election office in time to be counted.

According to the study, people in states with universal mail-in voting – like Washington – had the highest probability of voter turnout in 2018 and 2020, at 70%.

There was talk of reduced postal service in the run-up to the 2020 election, which may have hurt confidence among some potential voters that their ballot would be delivered in time to be counted.

Ritter said that underscores the importance of mail service in elections. “Does the postal system have sufficient resources to be able to reliably administer mail voting?” asked Ritter. “I think that’s an important factor.”

Ritter said the connection between mail service and voter turnout remains a critical issue. “What I find in my article – that the postal system matters in moderating the impact to mail voting,” said Ritter, “will continue to be the case in subsequent elections in the future, including 2024.”