Why Should We Consider Expanding Mail-in Ballots?

March 27, 2023
2nd-year Anthropology major Marina Scanagatta

2nd-year Anthropology major Marina Scanagatta

Natalia Farias Maldonado has long dark colored hair and is smiling at the camera
Natalia Farias Maldonando

As a full-time student, part-time barista, and intern at the CCE office, I’m rather busy. Between working, interning, going to class, and trying to have some semblance of a social life, I hardly have time to sleep, leaving little room for much else. Because of my strict schedule, I have voted via mail-in ballots since I have been able to vote. I am fortunate enough that if I needed to, I could take time off of work or school to go in on a Tuesday and vote, but that is not a privilege afforded to all. When researching how and when the federal election day was chosen, we see that in 1845 Congress declared that the first Tuesday following the first Monday in November would henceforth be Election Day.1 As our country has developed and changed, so have the lives of the residents living here. So considering that the world is so vastly different, why hasn't the way we vote grown with it? 

Election days are held during the work week, and with 63% of Americans living paycheck to paycheck, finding the time to vote on Tuesday is not always possible.2 One of the most widespread solutions to combat this is mail-in ballots. Mail-in ballots allow citizens to participate in democracy on their own schedule rather than adhering to a day chosen almost 200 years ago.

I had the opportunity to interview Sonoma State students and hear their opinions on the expansion of voting via mail-in ballots. The majority of interviewed students were in support of mail-in ballots. As stated by 2nd-year Anthropology major Marina Scanagatta, "I do think [mail-in ballots are] very convenient and make it easier for everyone," The mail-in ballots were especially beneficial for students with busy schedules, which is almost all students. Sonoma State University is fortunate enough to have a ballot drop box on campus, making it very easy for students to cast their votes and make their voices heard. Alongside mail-in ballots being more convenient for people with busy schedules, this also makes voting much more accessible for people with disabilities. 

Further, 1 in 4 or 26% of the United States adult population is disabled, with 11.1% of those disabilities being related to mobility issues.3 Disabled people are continually underrepresented and underserved. If traveling to polling locations is the only way to vote, that discriminates against a large portion of the country. Voting is one of the most direct pipelines people have to create change and have a say in the country's direction, and all residents deserve to be a part of that. By expanding mail-in ballots, voting is made more accessible for all of the voting population. This allows people to vote entirely from home, making it feasible for people with mobility issues to exercise their right to vote. Democracy performs best when more people participate, and by expanding how we can vote, we ensure more people can make their voices heard.

1. Why is Election Day a Tuesday in November?

2. Share of Americans living paycheck to paycheck rises to 63% — here’s how to get your finances back on track

3. Disability Impacts All of Us Infographic