Mail-in Ballot Facts

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Voting by mail is an established practice

Contrary to what some people may think, voting by mail is not a new idea. Since World War I in 1918, U.S. soldiers have been able to send in their vote via mail. Postal voting, also known as absentee voting, was extended to civilians in 1948.

Why mail-in ballots work

Three states have moved to a mail-in ballot election. Oregon became the first state in 1998 to pass an initiative requiring that all elections be conducted by mail. The state of Washington followed in 2011 and Colorado in 2013.

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One of the main benefits of mail-in ballots is reducing staff at polling center during an election, which results in considerable cost savings to the county as well as state.

Voting by mail is an integral and growing part of the American electoral process. In the 2012 presidential election, 21.4 percent of domestic voters cast ballots by mail, an increase from 10 percent as recently as 2000. In several states, the percentage of voters choosing to vote by mail in 2012 far surpassed the national average. Colorado reached 71.4 percent.

In 2010, the Pew Center for States have concluded that if Colorado sent all registered voters ballots by mail they could cut costs by $1.05 per registered vote, saving the state millions.

Voting Facts

The politics of voting is as colorful as the American flag. Here are some interesting historical tidbits:

The hanging chads: In the 2000 Presidential election, Democrat Al Gore received more popular votes than Republican George W. Bush, but the electoral vote was too close to call due to New Mexico, Oregon and Florida.

Ohio’s constitution prohibits “idiots” from voting: According to the Ohio state constitution, “No idiot, or insane persons, shall be entitled to the privileges of an elector. (1851)”

Alabama: Casting your ballot in Alabama can’t take longer than five minutes. In Alabama Code – Section 11-46-42, it notes the time limit for occupying of the booth.

Texas: You can vote via gun license but not student ID.

Only 20 states offer online registration: As of June 2014, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

Fraud..not a big issue: In a 2000 study into voting fraud, Loyola U professor Justin Levitt found only 31 cases in the US out of 1 billion ballots. Most of the case were people filing out a form incorrectly or data entry mistakes.

Ladies, married? Hope you have your papers to vote: A 96-year-old in Chattanooga, Tenn., was denied the right to vote at the polls in 2011 because she didn’t have her marriage certificate.

Want to vote, pay up: Poll taxes were still in effect for some states until 1966.

Election Day on Tuesday due to horses: In 1885, Congress selected Tuesday as the day to hold the vote because the general means of transportation was by horse and buggy. It would take a day to ride to the poll and back for most Americans, and most people did not travel on Sunday.

Running against a corpse: In 1872, incumbent Ulysses S. Grant had an easy run for a second term — because his opponent Horace Greeley died before the final votes were cast.