Few people have voted by mail nationwide but popularity is rising: study

Few people have voted by mail nationwide but popularity is rising: study
© Getty Images

Many of the voters casting ballots by mail this year are likely doing so for the first time as states expand vote-by-mail access to stem the spread of the coronavirus, a study from the Pew Research Center found.

The study found that the share of voters participating in elections through mail-in methods increased nearly threefold between 1996 and 2016, from 7.8 percent to nearly 21 percent. 

Though popularity for voting by mail has increased, it varies widely by state, with almost 100 percent mail-in voting in Oregon and 2 percent in states like West Virginia, Kentucky and Tennessee.

ADVERTISEMENT

New York and Kentucky saw high rates of mail-in voting in their hotly contested primaries on Tuesday, but a lack of infrastructure for such an election has led to delayed results. 

Five states — Colorado, Hawaii, Oregon, Washington and Utah — currently conduct elections almost entirely by mail. In those states, the 2016 election was conducted nearly 90 percent by mail. 

The rest of the states can be divided into two categories: those that allow any registered voter to apply for mail-in ballots, and those that require an excuse. 

In states that don’t require an excuse, roughly 1 in 5 voters cast a mail-in ballot in 2016. 

The study found that across the 11 states that have relaxed mail-in voting requirements to remove the excuse requirement this year, only about 5 percent of voters have cast ballots by mail in the past.