April 04, 2007

Wyden, Davis Push Vote by Mail

Plus: 10 Facts About VBM

Washington, DC - U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) and U.S. Rep. Susan Davis (D-CA) today announced that they have introduced legislation to help states transition to vote by mail (VBM) election systems. S. 979, the Vote Mail Act of 2007 and its House companion, H.R.1667, would create a three year, $18 million grant program to help states adopt vote by mail election systems like the one that Oregon voters have been successfully using for some time now.

"As the Oregon experience demonstrates, vote by mail works," Wyden said. "This bill will allow other states to replicate its benefits, like high voter turnout, increased public confidence in the election system, decreased risk of fraud and lower Election Day costs."

"The federal government should build upon the growing trend of states to bring the polls to the voters," said Davis, a member of the Committee on House Administration. "We should try to meet our constituents halfway by increasing access to the electoral process. I care deeply about the integrity of our electoral system and the rate of participation among our citizens. This bill will strengthen the democratic process and give elections officials and voters the options and support they deserve."

U.S. Sen. John Kerry (D-MA), an original co-sponsor of the Senate bill, said, "I'm proud to join Senator Wyden and Rep. Davis in introducing the Vote by Mail Act. We need to make our own democracy work again for all Americans. The greatest country on earth shouldn't have some of the lowest voter participation rates, and we can't afford to repeat mistakes year in and year out. I hope that more states will take advantage of the vote by mail system, and we look forward to presenting more solutions to make voting work in the United States."

The Vote Mail Act of 2007 is also being publicly supported by:

  • American Postal Workers Union
  • Common Cause
  • National Association of Postal Supervisors
  • American Association of People with Disabilities

To participate in the proposed grant program, states must demonstrate that the vote by mail system they intend to implement includes the same elements that have made Oregon's system so successful, including a system for recording electronically each voter's registration and signature and a process for ensuring that the signature on each VBM ballot is verified against that voter's electronically-recorded signature. States that decide to participate in the program have the option of adopting vote by mail state-wide, within a group of selected counties, or even in a single county. States transitioning to vote by mail state-wide will receive $2 million. States transitioning to VBM less than state-wide will receive $1 million


Fact #1. In Oregon, all steps of the vote by mail process are open to observation by the public including preparation of ballots for mailing, ballot receipt and signature verification, the opening of ballot return envelopes, preparation of ballots to be counted, logic and accuracy testing of vote tally machines, and the counting of ballots.

Fact #2. Oregon fully transitioned to vote by mail following the passage of Ballot Measure 60 in 1998 by a vote of 757,204 to 334,021.

Fact #3. Oregon's voter turnout is historically well-above average for the nation. See here.

Fact #4. Although 13 inches of rain fell in Tillamook County on Election Day in November 2006 and the Governor declared a state of emergency, 70% of the county's registered voters cast their ballots under the vote by mail system.

Fact #5. Over 80% of Oregonians polled in 2003 preferred voting by mail over in-person voting and this overwhelming level of support generally prevails, regardless of gender, age, race, income, education, employment status, political ideology, party affiliation, or whether a person lives in an urban, suburban, or rural area.

Fact #6. According to the same poll, younger voters, women, the disabled, the retired and homemakers all said that they voted more often under vote by mail.

Fact #7. Vote by mail elections cost about 30% less than elections in which a jurisdiction operates polling places and allows absentee voting.

Fact #8. Forensic document specialists who have experience working in the Oregon crime lab have trained the state election workers who must verify that the signature on a voter's registration card matches the signature on the envelope that contains their ballot.

Fact #9. Voters in Oregon who vote by mail can verify that their ballots have been received by calling their county election offices.

Fact #10.The first federal elections in the nation decided entirely by vote by mail were the 1995 primary and 1996 general election to replace Oregon Senator Bob Packwood, which Wyden won.