Progressive Views: Vote at Home

By Kevin Henning
For the “Progressive Views” column, Boerne Star, July 15, 2023

Image by Flickr is licensed under CC-BY-NC-ND 2.0

In a recent Progressive Views column, Laura Bray discussed how to make it easier to vote in Texas. She mentioned that allowing any registered voter to vote by mail would definitely help. In this article, I’ll discuss voting at home in more detail. 

Vote at home is also called vote by mail or absentee voting. It is increasing throughout the United States because it is a great way to improve voter turnout and reduce election costs. It will also maintain or enhance security. The Vote at Home Institute is a nonpartisan organization dedicated to ensuring the security of our elections and putting voters needs first. In the 2022 mid-terms, we had 8.1 million citizens vote in Texas, only 46% of registered voters.  This puts Texas near the bottom of all states in voter participation. In Kendall County 22,637 folks voted in the mid-term for 62% turnout. We should be proud that we eclipse Texas as a whole but our turnout could be better.

In February, the Vote at Home Institute completed reviewing state voting policies. They ranked using 15 criteria and the higher the number the more voter friendly. As you might imagine Texas only got 16 out of a possible 65 points where states like Utah, Colorado, Oregon, Virginia, California, Washington, Nevada, and Hawaii were all over 55 points. They all use the vote at home system. Connecticut, a liberal leaning state, actually scored worse than Texas with only 10 points. The evaluation wasn’t a liberal/conservative comparison although more progressive states often tend to be more voter friendly.

The criteria used to evaluate the states are not complicated. No excuse absentee voting where any voter can request that a ballot be mailed to them was one of the most important criteria. Mailing a ballot to all registered voters–which further increases the likelihood folks will vote–was another important element to increase a state’s score. Online and same-day voter registration is also a great way to make life easier for the voter. Being able to drop ballots in secure drop boxes or at an election office prior to early voting and election day helped states score better. Texas did score points for its two weeks of early voting. On the positive side, thanks to great work by our election office, countywide voting was implemented in 2019. This is definitely voter friendly and means we can vote in any polling place in the county, not just in our precinct. 

The election equipment placed into service by Kendall County for the November 2020 election continues to perform wonderfully. It has the advantage of creating a paper ballot that could be used to verify election results. This is not unlike what happens with a vote at home system. However, the vote at home system is much easier for the voter because voters don’t have to take time off work, travel to a polling place, or stand in lines. Voters can spend as long as they want reviewing their ballot at home. A vote at home system is also much less expensive since it requires less equipment and election workers.

In a vote at home system, envelopes are coded to match each voter and are sent to voters securely through the U.S. Postal Service. Ballots are not forwarded if voters have moved without updating their registration information. Voter lists are compared to updated address databases. Envelopes containing ballots are returned with signatures that must be verified against the voter registration file. This is done in Kendall County by a board made up of people from both parties. After the signature is verified, the ballot is removed from the envelope and the ballot heads to the counting process, ensuring secrecy. These protections ensure secrecy and reduce the possibility of voter fraud. 

We should not be restricting access to the vote but making it easier. Unfortunately, in Texas, voter suppression is alive and well. It takes the form of extreme gerrymandering, over the top photo ID requirements, and some of the most restrictive voter registration rules in the country. Recently enacted Texas voting laws will further inhibit citizen’s access to the polls. In Kendall County, our election officials and poll workers who come from both parties do an outstanding job of conducting our elections. Expanding mail in and absentee voting would be a great way to improve voter turnout, strengthen our election security, and secure our democracy for future generations.

To learn more, check out the Kendall County Democratic Party website:

Kevin Henning is a local Democrat.

Close Menu