WHY UNIVERSAL VOTE-BY-MAIL WOULD BE A VICTORY FOR ILLINOIS
By Matthew A. Flamm and Cary J. Shepherd
Since the late 20th Century , municipalities, counties, and states across the US have offered absentee voting. Traditionally, absentee voting was limited to disabled, elderly, or military voters who could not travel to polling places on Election Day. In recent years, Illinois and other states have opened up mail voting to all voters on a voluntary basis.
Vote by mail (VBM) programs offer a
simple, inexpensive, and accessible alternative to
the traditional method of requiring voters to physically attend polling places on a specific date. As a result, the states of Oregon, Washington, and most recently Colorado have adopted Universal VBM programs in place of their old systems. Those states have eliminated in-person voting and replaced it with an all-mail system.
This paper will examine the potential for the State of Illinois to adopt a Universal VBM program by examining factors such as voter turnout, cost, and security. Given the historical reputation of voting in Chicago, concerns regarding fraud and coercion must be considered. However, research suggests that VBM is largely free of fraud and coercion and is associated with strong benefits such as higher voter participation, less expensive elections, and easier access for lower- income, rural, and elderly voters. All of these benefits would likely be present in Illinois under a Universal VBM system.