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The Daily Evergreen

The student voice of Washington State University since 1895

The Daily Evergreen

The student voice of Washington State University since 1895

The Daily Evergreen

More efficient postal services increase the likelihood of voter turnout

Voting turnout increases in high delivery speed districts, voter turnout expected to decrease this year
Only 16% of eligible voters in Washington aged 18-24 actually voted in this year’s elections

More efficient postal administrations have been linked to an increase in voter turnout, according to a study by a WSU professor

WSU assistant professor Michael Ritter analyzed voting from 2018–2020 and found that in general, less restrictive and more accessible forms of mail-in ballot voting, such as universal mail-in voting and no-excuse mail voting (in which voters can vote by mail without needing to give an excuse) were linked to an increase in voter turnout.

“I found that when people live in a postal district that has higher than average postal delivery speed rates and utilizes mail voting, the result is a higher likelihood of voter turnout. When mail administrations are better, it makes people more likely, on average, to vote by mail,” Ritter said.

Ritter said other laws regarding mail voting, such as cure laws, which enable ballots with missing identification information to be fixed by the voter and still counted, also increase the likelihood of voter turnout via the mail. States with voting laws such as witness or notary requirements, meaning another individual has to attest to the identity of the voter, are shown to have a negative impact on the likelihood of voting.

Washington state provides mail-in ballots via universal mail-in voting, where every eligible registered voter is sent a ballot. Universal mail-in voting is considered to be the most accessible form of mail-in voting, Ritter said. In Pullman, registered voters are sent mail-in ballots 18 days prior to an election deadline and have until 8 a.m. on election day to drop off their ballot.

“In general, postal districts with better mail delivery speeds increase the likelihood that people will vote by mail,” he said. “It’s not unprecedented for someone to cast their ballot on time, but in the case of a slow mail delivery process, it doesn’t arrive on time for your state’s mail voting deadline, so the ballot is less likely to be counted. If a postal administration were equally good throughout the country, it would optimize mail voting outcomes.”

For residents of Pullman, the Whitman County Auditor’s Department has multiple ballot boxes permanently established around Pullman, both on and off campus. All the boxes are open for general elections and are almost always open for primary elections. In the case of limited jurisdictions on a primary, the majority of the ballot boxes will be opened, but a few might stay closed, said Whitman County auditor Sandy Jamison.

“In addition to the other boxes on campus, outside the CUB and next to the Chinook Student Center, I’ve had a new ballot box installed that will be open for the first time for the general election in 2023. It’s located just right outside the library [in Oakesdale],” said Jamison.

With the 2024 presidential election campaign trail heating up, attention to studies like Ritter’s and focus on effective voting practices is beginning to increase.

“A couple of positive takeaways from the study is that there is an established correlation between accessible forms of mail voting like universal mail voting and increased voter turnout,” he said. “My other studies have also shown that these more accessible forms of mail voting make voting more equal so to speak.”

In addition, the research finds that accessible forms of mail voting increase the likelihood of lower-class people voting, Ritter said. In regard to student vs. general population, during odd years like this, we will not see nearly the level of student turnout as next year.

“My hope is that government officials who are already aware of [the mail-in voting trends] will continue to become increasingly aware of how important effective postal administration is to a successful vote,” Ritter said.

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BECCA WALKER, Evergreen Photographer
Becca Walker is a photographer for the Daily Evergreen. Becca is a sophomore elementary education major from Olympia, Washington. Becca started working for the Evergreen in fall 2021 as a photographer.

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  • Richard LangisSep 22, 2023 at 8:05 am

    I absolutely love voting by mail. I can research the issues and candidates from the comfort of my home, feel zero pressure, and no waiting in lines all day long.

  • Sandy JamisonSep 21, 2023 at 2:01 pm

    Please note that the new ballot box recently installed is located in front of the library in the town of Oakesdale – not in front of the library on the WSU campus.
    Sandy Jamison
    Whitman County Auditor