The views expressed by contributors are their own and not the view of The Hill

True democracy stands on the heels of vote by mail expansion

Getty Images

We got a small glimpse at what is possible for the future of voting in the U.S. In 2020, 46 percent of voters voted by mail. It was a monumental habit change as the pandemic made it unsafe for people to congregate at polling places to cast ballots. Although born out of tragedy, it allowed more American’s than ever to exercise their fundamental right to vote. 

However, there are those who feel threatened by this progress, as opposed to celebrating it. 

Under a time crunch to adapt their voting infrastructure, many states did the necessary work of sending mail ballot applications to every registered voter or, following the example of what my state of Oregon does for every election, streamlining the process by mailing a ballot to every registered voter

Thanks to the incredible work of state leaders and election officials, we executed the largest nationwide election in our country’s history in the middle of a global pandemic. The Department of Homeland Security even went on record saying the 2020 election was the “most secure in American history.”

Republicans have seen the future and what is possible when more people vote by mail. Their response is a massive, coordinated effort to roll back access in states that have voted by mail for years.

Iowa enacted absentee voting in 1915, yet Republican legislators have proposed shortening the return window which will almost guarantee thousands more voters see their ballots rejected each election. Eighty percent of Arizonans voted by mail in 2020 but Republicans want to sabotage the state’s permanent early voting list and drop people off the list if they skip voting in some elections. For the past 16 years, Georgia voters have enjoyed access to no-excuse absentee voting and Republicans want to end that altogether.

Inclusion, equity and accessibility are the future of voting. That vision seems to terrify Republicans and in states where they control the legislature they are actively working to disenfranchise voters by rolling back the historic expansion of voter access that occurred in 2020.

To widen the scope and influence the course of voting rights in the nation, we must start by harnessing grassroots power nationwide, mobilize voters and push their respective legislators to expand voting rights. Following their successful run mobilizing swing state voters in the general election, Vote From Home ran a thorough voter outreach program during the U.S. Senate runoff election in Georgia. In seven weeks, they activated almost 1,000 volunteers across the nation to reach more than 730,000 Georgia voters, encouraging record voter turnout in the state. 

Motivated by their work in picking up the slack where elections administrations and government institutions failed, I’ve joined Vote From Home as their national chairperson to mobilize, empower and expand access to voters across the country, starting with Georgia, Iowa and Arizona. Every single elected official across the nation should be held accountable for ensuring that every voice can be heard.

The fight for the right to vote does not end with the general election. In 2021 alone, there are upcoming state and local elections across the country with hundreds of thousands of voters looking for options to cast their vote.

The past four years shined a light on the deep injustices ingrained in our legislative and electoral systems. We cannot allow ourselves to sit on the sidelines any longer, but rather lead the way in ensuring that every voter in the nation can make their voice heard.

Kate Brown is Oregon’s 38th governor and national chairperson of Vote From Home. In 2015, Governor Brown introduced the nation’s first automatic voter registration program. 

Tags Absentee ballot Democracy Early voting Elections Electronic voting Kate Brown Postal voting Postal voting in the United States Voter registration Voter suppression Voter turnout Voting

Copyright 2023 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

More Campaign News

See All
See all Hill.TV See all Video

Most Popular

Load more


See all Video