Voters with disabilities surged in ’22, thanks to vote-by-mail

Rutgers University and the U.S. Elections Assistance Commission have released new findings that, among other things, show the power of vote-by-mail to close the participation gap among different segments of our population.

The research, focusing specifically on access to the ballot for those with disabilities, showed:

›› Between 2018 and 2022, states with “mostly improved” access to mailed-out ballots increased the participation of voters with disabilities by 4.4 percent.

›› In states that went from “excuse required” to get a mailed-out ballot to “no excuse,” voter participation among people with disabilities increased by 6.9 percent.

›› In states that went the next step – from “no excuse” to an all-vote-by-mail model in which ballots were automatically mailed to all active registered voters, voter participation among people with disabilities jumped by 5.3 percent.

›› States that did not improve access to mailed-out ballots saw voter participation among people with disabilities remain at previous levels.

That’s about as straightforward as it gets: When you meet voters where they are, they’re far more likely to participate in elections. We’ve seen this in Nebraska when we graduated to a “no-excuse” format for voting by mail. And, we see it in every statewide election in the 11 counties that are all-vote-by-mail – the best bet to make on Election Day is that those 11 counties will be anywhere from five to 10 points higher in participation rate.

“We The People” means all of us. It’s why we work closely with organizations like our friends at The Arc of Nebraska, who add to our election observer ranks every statewide election to ascertain accessibility for people with disabilities at polling places around Nebraska. Unfortunately, despite best efforts, nearly every election finds accessibility concerns with a handful of voting sites, which makes having the option of voting by mail so important.

Thanks to our friends from the National Vote At Home Institute for highlighting the new research. If you’re interested in how vote-by-mail policies vary around the country and want to learn more about resources and ways to advocate for vote-by-mail, here’s the Institute’s 2023 research and policy guide.

Where else in Nebraska could all-vote-by-mail be beneficial – not just for Nebraskans with disabilities, but all eligible voters? Use TROVE, our interactive, map-based platform, to draw your own conclusions. In recent years, Civic Nebraska has supported legislation to expand the number of all-vote-by-mail counties by dropping the maximum population threshold (fewer than 10,000 residents) to qualify for the process. More people voting means a democracy that is more representative of all citizens.