Government affairs

Legislative Updates

Lawmakers introduce vote-by-mail legislation in House, Senate

On July 14, Sens. Ron Wyden (D-OR) and Jeff Merkley (D-OR) introduced the Vote By Mail Act in the Senate, and Reps. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) and David Cicilline (D-RI) introduced a companion bill in the House.

The legislation is part of Wyden’s national campaign to expand the Oregon-style vote-by-mail program nationwide as a way of tearing down barriers to voting. After Oregon became the first all-vote-by-mail state in 2000, it has consistently had some of the highest voter turnout in the nation, most notably among young voters and in midterm elections.

Specifically, the measure would amend the Help America Vote Act (HAVA) of 2002 to require states to mail ballots to all eligible voters in federal elections at least two weeks before the election. In addition to ensuring all Americans have the ability to cast their vote by mail, the bill calls for authorizing additional funding for the Postal Service to mail out the ballots at no cost to the states.

"We applaud these lawmakers' commitment to expanding accessibility for voters to participate in our democracy,”  NALC President Fredric Rolando said. “As the public face of the most trusted government agency, letter carriers stand ready and eager to help make voting more convenient for millions of Americans.”

The measure’s key provisions include:

  • Increasing access to voting: States may not impose additional conditions or requirements on individuals eligible to vote in an election for federal office, except creating deadlines for returning ballots.
  • Providing ballot materials: States must mail ballots to all registered citizens voting in an election for federal office at least two weeks before Election Day.
  • Options to return ballots: Registered citizens will be able to return their ballots by mail, at secured drop-off locations or at polling stations.
  • Authorizing funds for USPS: Congress will appropriate the funds necessary for the Postal Service to mail ballots in federal elections, saving states money as they transition away from traditional polling stations and allowing the federal government to absorb the cost associated with USPS delivery.

“Across the country, there are stories of long lines, inexplicable purges of voter rolls and new requirements that make it harder for citizens to vote,” Wyden said. “There is no excuse for accepting this state of affairs.”

NALC will continue to work with lawmakers in both chambers to help these bills gain traction in Congress and monitor their movement closely.

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