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Illinois is the latest state considering all mail-in voting, despite integrity problems nationwide

Securing Democracy? If the legislation is adopted, then Illinois would become the 24th state to allow for all mail-in voting for elections. This does not come without ballot integrity problems.

Published: January 17, 2024 11:00pm

Illinois is the latest state to consider moving to all mail-in voting for elections, as 23 other states have some form of it, despite concerns raised regarding lost and undeliverable mail-in ballots.

An Illinois state legislature committee discussed a bill last week that would allow counties to choose all mail-in voting for elections, focusing on expanding voter access. However, an election integrity watchdog has warned of issues with the system, such as missing ballots.

All mail-in voting elections are where all registered voters are sent ballots in the mail, without requesting them. This is different from absentee voting, where voters request a mail-in ballot to vote.

During a meeting of the House Ethics and Elections Committee on Wednesday, a bill was discussed that would allow counties to conduct elections through mail-in voting. The legislation, House Bill 4198, was proposed by Illinois State Rep. Carol Ammons (D), who sits on the committee.

Ammons’ husband, Champaign County Clerk Aaron Ammons, testified during the meeting, endorsing his wife’s bill.

“Hopefully, the adoption of HB4198 will put Illinois in the top tier of states that provide the best voter access,” Aaron Ammons said, after listing several examples of how Illinois has expanded voter access.

“My experience as a voter and as a county clerk tells me there is no greater voter access than voting from the comforts of your home,” he added. If the legislation is adopted, then Illinois would become the 24th state to allow for all mail-in voting for elections.

The states that have all mail-in voting for all elections are California, Colorado, Hawaii, Nevada, Oregon, Utah, Vermont, and Washington, according to an analysis by the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL).

Nebraska and North Dakota allow counties to opt into conducting elections by mail. Alaska, Arizona, Florida, Kansas, Maryland, Missouri, Montana, New Mexico, and Wyoming permit certain small elections to be conducted via mail.

Idaho, Minnesota, New Jersey, and New Mexico allow for mail-in elections for some small jurisdictions.

However, there are some concerns regarding all mail-in voting for elections. According to two reports last year by the Public Interest Legal Foundation (PILF) regarding all mail-in elections in November 2022, millions of ballots went missing and thousands were rejected.

Last January, PILF found that in California’s general election, "after accounting for polling place votes and rejected ballots in November 2022, there were more than 10 million ballots left outstanding," meaning "election officials do not know what happened to them.”

More than 22 million ballots were mailed out in California during the 2022 general election. California election officials also rejected 226,250 mail ballots during both the 2022 primary and general elections, according to the PILF report. A total of 120,432 of those ballots were from the November 2022 election.

Nevada, which also had an all mail-in election in November 2022, had 8,036 mail ballots rejected by election officials, according to a PILF report last March. The U.S. Senate race in Nevada was determined by a thin 7,928 votes between Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto (D) and GOP candidate Adam Laxalt, which ensured that the Democrats took control of the chamber.

A total of 95,556 Nevada ballots were sent to undeliverable or "bad" addresses, which account for more than 70% of mail ballots sent, according to the PILF report. Nearly 513,000 ballots were returned. The report also estimated that about $2,270,000 was wasted by the state on postage for all the ballots that were undeliverable or not returned.

According to 2020 election data by the U.S. Election Assistance Commission, an independent bipartisan commission whose stated mission is to help election officials improve the administration of elections and help Americans participate in the voting process, 90,687,978 mail-in ballots were sent to voters nationwide, 1.1 million of which were undeliverable, according to J. Christian Adams, the president of PILF, said last week. “In 2020, President Biden’s vote margin of victory in Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Georgia, Arizona, and Nevada, was smaller than the number of missing and undeliverable ballots sent by those states."

"When we send more ballots to faulty addresses and lose track of more ballots than the difference between winning and losing a state’s Electoral College vote, that’s a core system failure,” Adams added.