Republicans have raised a host of legitimate concerns about the push to turn Election Day into election month and do away with the in-person voting model for a weeks-long process of disseminating and collecting votes by mail. Mass mail-in balloting increases the opportunities for fraud and ballot curing and harvesting, and it contributes to the ballot-counting fiascos we see in places like Arizona, delaying the determination of winners and undermining voter confidence. But there’s another, under-discussed consequence of the push for a permanent mail-in voting infrastructure: Gen Z is coming of age without knowing anything else.
As renting a movie evolved from driving to a Blockbuster, to ordering a Netflix DVD in the mail, to instantaneously streaming anything we want, we’ve grown up. We shop from our phones, and our purchases are influenced by social media. We take Prime two-day delivery and pre-printed return labels for granted. Even online grocery shopping subscriptions have taken hold, fueled by but outlasting the Covid lockdowns. We gravitate toward the convenience of working from home. Many of us can renew our driver’s licenses online.
This is the lifestyle and attitude Gen Z brings to voting. It’s already typical for many young people to cast their first few ballots absentee, if they start voting while they’re in college. Gen Z voters who voted for the first time (or their first time post-college) in 2020 may have never cast a vote in person, thanks to the mass mail-in ballot operations that were shoved through under the guise of Covid concern. Republicans need to understand that if Gen Z comes to see mass voting by mail for any reason as normal, it will be next to impossible to go back.
Research in 2020 by The New York Times analyzed the all-mail voting system in Colorado, in which all potential voters were mailed their ballots and could simply mail their completed ballots back, leave them in a drop box, or show up at the polls to cast them in person. The Times found that all-mail voting increased turnout overall, but particularly among young voters, where “turnout increases by 16 percentage points.”
That turnout increase is not a surprise, as having a ballot mailed to you eliminates a lot of the already-minimal initiative and ownership required for an able-bodied American to get himself to the polls on Election Day. If the state mails you a ballot unprompted, a Democrat ballot chaser calls you or knocks on your door, hounds you to fill it out, and offers to drop it off for you (and even offers you a voting guide!), then suddenly your ownership of your own ballot is close to zero — you’re a cog in Democrats’ voting machine, and they like it that way.
Suddenly, also, Democrats — who have long capitalized on massive, month-long “get out the vote” operations while Republicans are still trying to win on Election Day alone — have a cushy surplus of votes. While the prevailing corporate media narrative insists that young voters turned out in the midterms because of abortion, it’s also obvious that Democrats are targeting young voters far more heavily — and these targeting operations include “get out the vote” drives bolstered by mail-in voting.
Democrats know that no-excuse mail-in voting enables their ballot-harvesting operations, and they will not easily give up the “new normal” they pushed on state election offices under the guise of Covid because it works to their advantage. But Republicans should understand that if they let Democrats’ “election month” shenanigans go on long enough, a generation of voters will grow up without knowing anything else. And if you’ve always been able to cast your ballot from your couch (maybe even with help from your local Democrat operatives), chances are you’re not going to be interested in going back to a system that requires more personal responsibility and ownership from you.
Voting is a duty as well as a right. If we truly believe that, then we know, like any duty, voting is an act of personal responsibility. American citizens are entitled to a vote — but not to having their ballots delivered to their doors. Mail-in voting is subject to a host of problems that disadvantage voters, not just electoral integrity at large: There’s a higher risk of having their ballots lost, stolen, or misdelivered, as well as a higher rejection rate due to a greater opportunity for error. Ballots filled out ahead of Election Day also deny voters the opportunity to base decisions on events that come late in the campaign season, like debates and October surprises. And mailed ballots don’t ensure the privacy of a voting booth; they can be subject to pressure from a controlling partner or even from friends.
Once people become accustomed to conveniences, though, it’s hard to give them up. When those conveniences weaken the integrity of electoral processes and undercut voter autonomy, people who value secure, straightforward elections should want to minimize them. But Republicans are falling asleep at the wheel while Democrats accustom an entire generation to having their ballots dropped off at home to be filled out at their convenience over a weeks-long period.
The longer these fiascos are normalized, the fewer people will realize how abnormal they are. If Republicans in office ever want to go back to Election Day as they know it, they’d better work now to make sure Gen Z knows “Election Day” at all.