News Release

Universal Vote-by-Mail Program Amid Pandemic

The media watch group FAIR just published the piece: “Can the U.S. Pull Off a November Election? Journalists Play a Critical Role.”

The UCLA Voting Rights Project just released a white paper “Protecting Democracy: Implementing Equal and Safe Access to the Ballot Box During a Global Pandemic.” [PDF]

The paper urges Congress to “immediately provide funding and guidance for a national vote-by-mail effort as part of current relief proposals to help with the economic impacts of the coronavirus. If Congress fails to act, the paper calls on state and local officials to step in. The paper also seeks to highlight the low-health risks and general safety to the public that voting by mail provides during this national emergency.”

“States around the country are pushing back primary and runoff elections in the hope that election procedures can return to normal at a later time,” said Chad Dunn, co-founder of the UCLA Voting Rights Project and co-author of the report. “But hope is not a plan. We must prepare now to protect the fundamental right to vote.”

The white paper offers the following solutions to implement a universal vote-by-mail program by November:

1. Enroll voters immediately in a vote-by-mail program, allowing for an online registration option.
2. Provide a universal mail ballot and envelope to standardize the process and education efforts.
3. Work with the U.S. Postal Service to design a reliable and convenient program to return mail-in ballots.
4. Create security measures for vote-by-mail ballots.
5. Create a process for voters to address any issues with their vote-by-mail ballots so as to ensure all lawful votes are counted.
6. Modify any in-person polling places to maintain social distancing and minimize public health concerns for at-risk populations.
7. Improve sanitation efforts at polling places to provide public health assurances for in-person voting.
8. Increase voter education efforts on reforms implemented.

The group states that six states can take immediate action to move the November election to universal vote-by-mail because of existing programs: Colorado, Oregon, Washington, Hawaii, Utah and California. Further, the coronavirus pandemic provides a crucial opportunity to put benefits in place that will last beyond this election by reducing costs, making it easier to engage communities of color and voters with disabilities, and protecting elections from hacks or other tampering attempts, according to the report.

Contact: Eliza Moreno, lppipress at luskin.ucla.edu