National political leaders are learning what Utah already knows: Vote by mail works

Written by Derek Monson

December 15, 2022

In an unexpected about-face, national Republican Party leaders have begun openly recognizing the value of voting by mail and casting ballots before Election Day. This comes after two election cycles (2020 and 2022) of these same leaders criticizing vote by mail and early voting.

For Utah voters and leaders, this news might prompt questions like “What took them so long to figure things out? Didn’t we learn that a decade ago?” The answer to that last question is “yes.”

To be fair, concerns about vote by mail after the 2020 election cycle are understandable in some ways. Many states felt compelled to jump into the deep end of universal vote by mail due to concerns about the COVID-19 pandemic. In states with little or no experience with primarily vote-by-mail elections, hiccups and larger problems were probably inevitable. Additionally, the unfamiliarity of vote by mail left many voters with natural questions and skepticism when comparing it to the in-person voting they were familiar with. And being forced into it by public health circumstances didn’t help either.

However, through that entire period, people on the right could have observed how red states like Utah were proving that primarily vote-by-mail elections could be free and fair while maintaining their integrity. Despite Utah’s use of vote by mail as the default voting mechanism for several election cycles prior to 2020, election fraud databases have yet to catalog verified instances of voter fraud in the state during that time.

Sutherland Institute research on Utah’s vote-by-mail system noted that Utah has more than 20 distinct layers of election security spread across state and local election administrators. At the same time, voter turnout steadily increased under the vote-by-mail system, showing that vote by mail – when done right – can maintain both election security and access to voting.

Of course, no election system is perfect. A new legislative audit of the 2022 midterms found both that Utah’s election integrity measures are sufficient to prevent fraud and that several reforms could improve election security further. The policy reforms suggested in the audit deserve thoughtful consideration.

But as political rhetoric flips from criticizing vote by mail to embracing it, national leaders would do well to look to Utah’s leadership on this issue. The state’s approach to vote by mail has proven successful. Utah should serve as an example of how to do vote by mail the right way.

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