The pandemic forced every state to update, and sometimes radically change, their rules regarding voting by mail in 2020. This presents us with a golden opportunity to cement this expansion of voting rights for a generation, but we have to move quickly.
Many of the states made changes to their 2020 practices, but it is not set in stone that the expanded ability to vote by mail will be permanent. That will only happen if we push for it. There could be (and should be) and national conversation about how voting by mail is secure and safe, but also appeared to be a factor in the turbo-charged turnout we saw in November. It would be an absolute shame to go backwards.
To be clear, though, this fight needs to be fought state by state. Your elections laws are created and administered by the state. So this is an effort that will need to be organized at the state-level. Here is some information and resources to help you.
When does your state legislature meet?
An important piece of information you’ll need: When, exactly, will your state legislators be “in session.” Some state legislatures meet for a couple of months, others meet for most of the year. Many start right away in January, others don’t start until later. Since you’ll be reaching out to your state legislators to lobby them to take specific action, it’s important to know when they can be reached.
How do you contact your state legislators?
Open States has an easy to use tool to find 1) the names and contact information about your state legislators and 2) to find state-level bills that have been proposed. I’d recommend keeping the search simple to start, say, by just looking for bills in your state by using the keyword “voting” in your search.
What to say
You can contact your state legislators to ask for legislation but also to encourage them to vote on proposed legislation. If you don’t know if your state has proposed any legislation related to voting by mail, you can simply ask. “I’m calling because I want [STATE] to expand voting by mail permanently. Can you tell me if there is any legislation currently being discussed on that topic?”
If a bill has already been proposed, ask what exactly the bill would cover or ask how you can learn more about that bill. Then, once you know more about the bill, you can call back and tell your legislator (or more likely, an aide) how you’d like them to vote on that bill.
If no legislation is being considered, which is certainly possible at the beginning of a legislative session, then ask your legislator to propose a bill to expand voting by mail. Be sure to tell them that voting by mail increases voter participation without benefitting one party or the other (source) and saves the state millions of dollars (source).
Finding additional advocates
While you should be comfortable calling your own representatives at any time, and about any issue, it’s helpful to be part of a larger group of people and organizations who want to achieve the same goals that you do. When it comes to expanding voting by mail, I’d recommend reaching out to your local chapter of the League of Women Voters and find out if they plan to lobby for expanded voting by mail.
Additionally, if you are plugged into any local grassroots organizations, you can either find out if they plan to lobby for voting by mail or suggest it yourself. A great resource for learning more about the research around voting by mail is the Brennan Center for Justice.
From time to time, I plan to check in on this issue as voting rights are near and dear to my heart. In the meantime, if you have any questions about how to get started on this issue in your state, leave me a comment or a message.
Expanded Access To Voting Yielded Huge Turnout. Will States Take It Away?
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