A significant majority of Americans want lawmakers to keep and build on the expanded voting options many states adopted during the 2020 elections as they tried to make casting ballots safer amid the COVID-19 pandemic, a new poll released Monday found.
The poll, conducted by the independent firm Strategies 360 and Voting Rights Lab, found that 74% of Americans believe voters should have the ability to cast absentee ballots by mail in future elections ― an idea that enjoys support from 62% of Republicans and even stronger majorities of independent and Democratic voters. Among all voters, 70% support the widespread adoption of no-excuse absentee voting, in which voters can apply to have ballots mailed to them in advance of the election without providing a reason.
Two-thirds of voters also said they would favor expanding early voting periods ahead of Election Day, the poll found.
The expansion of early voting periods and vote-by-mail options during the pandemic boosted turnout during primary elections and for November’s presidential contest, especially in states that adopted those measures for the first time, as voters submitted absentee ballots or cast votes before Election Day at record rates.
Since then, Republican lawmakers in Congress and state legislatures, many of whom initially favored the changes made last year, have continued former President Donald Trump’s crusade against expanded voting rights, wielding baseless conspiracies about rampant fraud to try to curtail voting rights and limit absentee voting in numerous states. They have often argued that the changes caused confusion and a lack of confidence in the country’s election system.
But the poll’s findings, which are similar to those of other surveys conducted over the last year, suggest that Americans are broadly supportive of the changes that were made, and favor having more time and more options to cast ballots in future elections.
A 70% majority of the poll’s respondents said they approved of the expanded options afforded voters last year, compared with just 26% who disapproved. And 90% of respondents who said they had cast absentee ballots for the first time in 2020 reported that they were satisfied with the experience.
The combination of sudden election reforms and rampant conspiracy-peddling about them, especially from Republicans still reeling from Trump’s loss, has touched off major battles over voting rights in Congress, where Democratic majorities are pushing major voting rights legislation, and in state legislatures, where lawmakers have introduced unprecedented numbers of bills to both expand and restrict access to the ballot.
State legislators have filed more than 500 bills in at least 37 states to expand voting rights, according to the Brennan Center for Justice. At the same time, lawmakers in at least 33 states have filed 165 bills that seek to implement new voting restrictions, the center found.
Some of those take aim at long-standing practices: In Georgia and Arizona, for instance, Republicans are seeking to limit or even eliminate vote-by-mail and early voting programs that were in place long before 2020.
In other states, lawmakers have been loath to keep vote-by-mail and early voting options that were added because of the pandemic. Kentucky Republicans, for instance, have shown little interest in maintaining no-excuse absentee balloting or early voting periods after both helped boost turnout last year, thanks to a bipartisan deal struck by the state’s Democratic governor and Republican secretary of state. Instead, the GOP-controlled state legislature took away the governor and secretary of state’s power to make the sort of emergency election changes they implemented in 2020.
Republican lawmakers have also proposed a rash of other restrictions, including new voter ID laws, measures that would require voters to have absentee ballots notarized, and limits on the number of drop boxes where voters can submit ballots.
The new poll found that those ideas are also out-of-step with what voters want: 57% of respondents said they opposed notary requirements and 55% are against the elimination of drop boxes.
Majorities of voters, meanwhile, also favor more lenient approaches to the main issues that did arise last November, as states hastily changed their election systems during the pandemic.
Nearly two-thirds of respondents said they believe voters should be allowed to correct mistakes made on absentee ballots, a process known as “ballot curing” that drew widespread scrutiny last year. A similar share of voters support keeping early voting sites open on nights and weekends, a practice that drew some GOP opposition last year, particularly after Texas’ largest county kept early voting sites open for 24 hours ahead of the election.
And 65% think election officials should be allowed to start processing absentee ballots before Election Day, a change that would have sped up the vote counting process in key states like Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin and helped eliminate much of the confusion that Trump and the GOP used to fuel their favorite conspiracy theories.