In the 2016 Presidential election, about 60.1% of eligible U.S. voters participated. Of this 60.1%, 21% of people voted by mail-in absentee ballot. By the 2020 Presidential election, 66.3% of the U.S. voted and 46% of voters voted by mail-in absentee ballot.
While this change can be highly attributed to the COVID-19 pandemic, recent trends in current elections point toward mail-in absentee ballots allowing for more voter participation in the future.
The Wisconsin election on April 6 has caused an uproar of absentee ballot requests, totaling 391,413 since Friday. This figure is nearly four times the amount of absentee ballots requested four years ago, at 103,373.
“For some people, they’ve just figured out the absentee voting process and they might find it is more convenient for them and have a desire to continue that,” Madison City Clerk Maribeth Witzel-Behl explained.
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Voting is a civic duty which everyone in the U.S. should be able to participate in. Making a turn to have absentee ballots be more widely used and available to those who want to vote could make sure the process is accessible. As we have seen through the last election, this could improve voter turnout overall.
“During much lower turnout elections, we are still seeing a very large percentage of voters preferring to vote by mail,” Milwaukee Election Commission Executive Director Claire Woodall-Vogg said. “Voters have definitely discovered the ease and convenience of voting by mail and I expect that our number will remain higher for years to come.”
Not only could focusing on absentee voting increase voter turnout, it could provide new jobs. If the increased absentee ballot requests remain, cities and towns across Wisconsin will have to prepare for a bump in funding needed to administer elections.
This increase would also create additional manual work creating more jobs to process the increased quantity of ballots.
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Providing more funding and involving more people from communities in Wisconsin could lead to more representative election results in the future as well. Getting more involved in the electoral process would be a great way for smaller communities to get their voices heard.
With more people casting their votes for the representative, hopefully, this could put people into power to provide more for the constituency they are representing.
Bringing ballots into homes would also be a good way for parents to teach their children about the electoral process. By demonstrating to young voters how to vote and different voting options, they can understand the process better and could potentially become more active in future political participation.
Many people who first vote when they turn 18 don’t know the process, much less who or what they are voting for.
By bringing the process into the household, parents can inform kids before they vote it is important to understand who you are voting for and why you are voting for them.
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This understanding along with added voter participation from mail-in absentee ballots and poll working would change who is elected in the future.
While this isn’t something which can be seen overnight, a first step like increasing voter participation through absentee voting could help make the change. Citizens need to be able to rely on those representing them in office.
Those people elected are the ones who are able to make changes in the rules and regulations governing our society. By participating and electing those who can represent what citizens value, it could create a much better and more cohesive world.
Grace A. Metzler ([email protected]) is a junior majoring in legal studies and social welfare.