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How Increased Mail-In Voting In 2020 Could Change Voter Habits In Elections To Come

The Toidi
As record numbers of people voted by mail in Wisconsin, political scientists will begin to study how this may change how they vote in the future.

Wisconsin followed the nationwide trend this year with record mail-in and early voting. But will those voter trends continue into future election years or is this a fluke in the time of COVID-19?

If there is a shift in voter trends, is now the time for lawmakers and election officials to look at policies and laws in place around early and mail-in voting?

“It could very well be that after people have figured out how to vote by mail the first time, you might find that it’s nice, it's easier, more convenient, and less hectic than showing up to the polling place and voting in-person. So, I wouldn’t be surprised if we see mail voting increase nationwide,” says Anthony Fowler, a leading University of Chicago scholar on voting and voter behavior.

He says this could also help people feel more informed as they cast their ballots. With elections often having many down-ballot races, having the time to sit in your home and look up each candidate or issue before casting your vote is much more comfortable than doing it in the voting booth.

If this does become a lasting change in voting habits, that means election officials will have to plan for the unique challenges that mail-in voting raises. Ballot tampering, voting on behalf of others, and issues with the postal service are all topics that were raised during this election. But that’s where Fowler says election officials can step in and ensure trust in the system.

“There is not widespread evidence of massive voter fraud, and I think we need to do as much as we can to bot mitigate voter fraud as much as possible and also make the public aware that we’re doing the best we can and they should largely trust the results of our elections,” he says.

From 2020 to 2021, Jack was WUWM's digital intern and then digital producer.