As we near the 2020 general election, a partisan shouting match has taken place over the legitimacy of mail-in voting.
According to Pew Research, mail-in ballots “accounted for just over half of this year’s primary votes,” resulting in about double the mail-in votes that were cast in the same polling places in 2016 and 2018 general elections throughout the country.
Vote by mail “should never be a partisan issue,” said Hope Zitting-Goeckeritz, executive director for the nonprofit Voterise, a Utah organization that is dedicated to increasing voter registration and turnout.
“The fact of the matter is you can’t copy ballots, they are on encrypted paper,” said Zitting-Goeckeritz. “It’s really important that people aren’t discouraged to vote through mail because it is safe and secure.”
Utah has been voting by mail since 2012 and, according to the Heritage Foundation, there have been no instances of voter fraud during that time.
“Why wouldn’t everyone love it?” said Zitting-Goeckeritz. “You can vote in your pj’s.”
State residents who have registered before the deadline (Oct. 23) will receive a ballot between Oct. 13 and 27. Once they have received their ballot and filled it out, they have one of two options: Residents can mail their ballot through the U.S. Post Office with a postmark the day before the election, or they can drop off their ballot at a drop-box location before 8 p.m. on Election Day.
Zitting-Goeckeritz said Utahns have historically been avid voters. In 1980, Utah ranked 5th in the country in voter turnout. However, in 2016 voter turnout fell dramatically and the state ranked 39th.
“Quite a jump in the wrong direction,” she said.
Part of the problem is that 18 to 29-year-old residents rarely show up to vote. According to Zitting-Goeckeritz, in 2014, 8.1% of the demographic voted in the 2014 midterms. In 2018, it was only about double that number.
Voterise offers registration forms for Utahns in 13 different languages and a non-partisan voting guide that can help voters see candidates’ stances on the issues and if they have received any endorsements.
“Our voter guide is issue based,” said Zitting-Goeckeritz. “[Voters] can actually select each race they want to read about and then see each candidate side by side. They can then select an issue they are interested in and see where the candidates stand.”
Zitting-Goeckeritz says people who have been sent the voter guide are 75% likely to turn out for the election.
One of the goals for Voterise during the 2020 election is to increase the number of women who vote.
“We make up 51% of the population, but only 25% of the state legislature is female,” said Zitting-Goeckeritz, noting that Utah had the first female voter 150 years ago.
She said Voterise had the goal of recruiting 1,000 ambassadors who would then each recruit 20 women to vote. As of Oct. 1, the organization had 770 ambassadors.
“We have been very successful despite COVID-19,” said Zitting-Goeckeritz.
View the Voterise voting guide for more information.