Postal voting

  (Redirected from Vote-by-mail)

Postal voting is voting in an election where ballot papers are distributed to electors (and typically returned) by post, in contrast to electors voting in person at a polling station or electronically via an electronic voting system.

Ballot and other documents for postal voting for the 2015 Luxembourg constitutional referendum

In a given election, postal votes may be available on demand or limited to individuals meeting certain criteria, such as a proven inability to travel to a designated polling place. Most electors are required to apply for a postal vote, although some may receive one by default. In some elections postal voting is the only voting method allowed and is referred to as all-postal voting. With the exception of those elections, postal votes constitute a form of early voting and may be considered an absentee ballot.

Typically postal votes must be mailed back before the scheduled election day. However, in some jurisdictions return methods may allow for dropping off the ballot in person via secure drop boxes or at voting centers. Postal votes may be processed by hand or scanned and counted electronically. The history of postal voting dates back to the 19th century, and modern-day procedures and availability vary by jurisdiction. Research, focused on the United States and using data from states where postal voting is widely available—California, Oregon and Washington—shows that the availability of postal voting tends to increase voter turnout.[1][2][3]

Electoral laws typically stipulate a series of checks to protect against voter fraud and allow for the integrity and secrecy of the submitted ballot to be maintained. Known instances of fraud are very rare.[4] Coordinated, large-scale fraud by postal voting is likely hard to pull off undetected because the large number of interested parties (such as officials, political operators, and journalists) as well as a large number of scholars and analysts who are capable of detecting statistical outliers in vote totals signifying large-scale fraud.[2] Officials can confirm instances of fraud by checking signatures and conducting basic detective work.[2]

All-postal votingEdit

All-postal voting is the form of postal voting where all electors receive their ballot papers through the post, not just those who requested an absentee ballot. Depending on the system applied, electors may have to return their ballot papers by post, or there may be an opportunity to deliver them by hand to a specified location.

There is some evidence that this method of voting leads to higher turnout than one where people vote in person or have to apply for a postal vote. Critics suggest that this is only a temporary impact, and that there are dangers in people using ballot papers intended for other electors.[citation needed]

It has been tested by a large number of local authorities in the United Kingdom for their elections, and in 2004 it was used for elections to the European Parliament and local authorities in four of the English regions (see below for more details). In 2016, the Australian Marriage Law Postal Survey was conducted via all-postal voting with a turnout of 79.5 percent.

Experience of postal voting and all-postal voting by countryEdit


At the 2016 Australian federal election, there were 1.2 million postal votes cast, amounting to 8.5 percent of total votes.[5]

Postal voting in Australia was introduced for federal elections in 1902, and first used at the 1903 election. It was abolished by the Fisher Government in 1910, following claims that it was open to abuse and biased towards rural voters. The Cook Government's bill to restore postal voting was one of the "triggers" for the double dissolution prior to the 1914 election. Postal voting was eventually restored by the Hughes Government in 1918 and has not been challenged since, although the provisions and requirements have been amended on a number of occasions.[6]

Prior to Federation in 1901, Western Australia introduced a form of postal voting in 1877 with strict eligibility criteria. South Australia introduced postal voting for seamen in 1890,[7] and a further act in 1896 gave postal votes to any elector who would be more than 15 miles (24 km) from home on election day, as well as for any woman unable to travel "by reason of her health". Victoria passed a similar law in 1899, and the first federal postal voting legislation was also modelled on the 1896 South Australian act.[6]


Postal voting at a federal level is governed by the Commonwealth Electoral Act 1918 and administered by the Australian Electoral Commission (AEC). Postal votes are available to those who will be absent from their electoral division through travel, or who those are unable to attend a polling booth due to illness, infirmity, "approaching childbirth", caring responsibilities, reasonable fears for their safety, religious beliefs, imprisonment, status as a silent elector, or employment reasons.[8]

Eligible voters may make a postal vote application (PVA) prior to each election, or apply for status as a "general postal voter" and receive a postal ballot automatically. Postal voters receive their ballot(s) and a prepaid envelope containing their name and address, as well as a predetermined security question from the PVA. Voters are required to sign the envelope and provide the correct answer to the security question. They are also required to have a witness sign and date the envelope.[9] As of 2016, postal votes were able to be received and entered into the count up to 13 days after election day. Following the 2016 election, it was observed that the strict scrutiny process afforded to postal votes was a "significant contributor" to delays in declaring the results of close elections.[5]


Austria enabled postal voting in 2007 by amending Article 26 of the Constitution of Austria. Electors request an electoral card that can be completed in person or in private and sent via post. In the 2017 election, roughly 780,000 postal ballots were cast representing 15% of all ballots.[10]


The ability to vote when in-person voting is not possible was first introduced with the Military Voters Act in 1917, giving the right to vote to all Canadian soldiers. Public servants became eligible in 1970. The right was further extended to civilian support personnel on Canadian Forces bases in the 1977. In 1993, Bill C-114 extended the special ballot vote (Special Voting Rules) by mail to all Canadian citizens.[11]

Use of special voting rules including vote by mail has grown with each election. In the 42nd general election (2015), the number of voters increased by 117 percent over the previous election to roughly 619,000.[12] This number grew to roughly 660,000 in the 43rd election (2019) representing 3.6 percent of electors.[13]


Finland introduced vote by post in 2019 for eligible voters living permanently abroad and eligible voters staying abroad at the time of the elections.[14]


In the March 2020 municipal elections, France allowed voting by "procuration" – the equivalent of absentee voting – for individuals who were sick, isolated or at risk due to the coronavirus pandemic.[15]


Absentee voting has existed in Germany since 1957, originally in order to ensure that all German citizens, especially the old, sick, and disabled, and citizens living abroad, have the opportunity to participate in elections. At first, postal voters had to state why they could not cast their vote in person on Election Day; but this requirement has been dropped in 2008, allowing everyone to use postal voting. Like in many other countries, in more recent years, voting by mail has become increasingly popular among younger and non-disabled citizens residing within the country; as such, various tools are being developed to help citizens, both domestic and abroad, more easily apply for postal voting.[citation needed]


Hungarian citizens living abroad who do not have an official address in Hungary are allowed to vote by mail.[16] They are only allowed to vote for party lists, but not for local representatives.[17] In the last parliamentary election in 2018, 267,233 votes (4.6% of all votes) were submitted via mail. 48% of all valid postal votes were submitted from Romania.[18][19]


Postal voting in India is done only through the Electronically Transmitted Postal Ballot Papers (ETPB) system of Election Commission of India, where ballot papers are distributed to the registered eligible voters and they return the votes by post. When the counting of votes commences, these postal votes are counted first before the counting of votes from the electronic voting machines of all other voters. Only certain categories of people are eligible to register as postal voters. People working in the union armed forces and state police as well as their wives, and employees working for the Government of India who are officially posted abroad can register for the postal vote, these are also called service voters. Additionally, people in preventive detention, disabled and those above the age of 65 years old can use postal vote. Prisoners can not vote at all.[20][21][22] The Communist Party of India (Marxist) has alleged that postal ballots "will adversely effect the verifiability of a large number of voters, thus, transparency and integrity of the process", and expressed concerns with "instances of manipulation and malpractice" with postal ballots.[23][24][25]


Postal voting documents sent to an Indonesian voter in the United Kingdom during the 2019 Indonesian general election.

Eligible Indonesians living abroad are able to vote by mail in national elections by registering at the Indonesian overseas election commission in their country of residence. Beside presidential elections, they are also able to vote in DPR elections. All overseas Indonesian voters are included in the Jakarta 2nd constituency, which also contains Central and South Jakarta.


Electoral package sent to an Italian voter in South America during the 2013 Italian general election.

Since 2001 Italian citizens living abroad have the right to vote by mail in all referendums and national elections being held in Italy (provided they had registered their residence abroad with their relevant consulate).


In Malaysia, opposition leader and former deputy prime minister Anwar Ibrahim alleged that postal votes have been used by the ruling Barisan Nasional coalition in securing seats in certain constituencies.[26] He also said that in one particular constituency (Setiawangsa), he claimed that his Parti Keadilan Rakyat had actually won during the 2008 elections, before 14,000 postal votes came in awarding the incumbent BN parliamentarian the seat with a majority of 8,000 votes.[27] In Malaysia, only teachers, military personnel, and policemen based away from their constituencies are eligible to submit postal votes.


Postal ballot paper for Mexico federal election 2012

In Mexico, since the 2006 federal elections, postal voting for people living abroad has been permitted. A request can be made to the National Electoral Institute which then sends the ballots outside the country.


Mail-in ballots are an option for Overseas Filipinos in select countries only. The general practise for local and overseas absentee voting in Philippine elections requires that ballots be cast in person at select polling places, such as a consulate office.


In Spain, for European, regional and municipal elections, voters who will be absent from their town on election day or are ill or disabled, may request a postal vote at a post office. The application must be submitted personally or through a representative in case of illness or disability certified by a medical certificate.


Swiss federal law allows postal voting in all federal elections and referenda,[28] and all cantons also allow it for cantonal ballot issues. All voters receive their personal ballot by mail and may either cast it at a polling station or mail it back. As of 2019, approximately 90% of Swiss voters cast ballots using Remote Postal Voting.[29]

United KingdomEdit

Absentee voting in the United Kingdom is allowed by proxy or post (known as postal voting on demand) for any elector. Postal voting does not require a reason,[30] apart from in Northern Ireland, where postal voting is available only if it would be unreasonable to expect a voter to go to a polling station on polling day as a result of employment, disability or education restrictions.

Proxy voting is allowed for people who will be away, working, or medically disabled.[31] Anyone eligible to vote in the election may be a proxy for close relatives and two unrelated people.[32]

Postal voting has been subject to fraud, undue influence, theft and tampering, but no data has been cited which indicates this occurs at a level equal to or above any other form of voting. "[T]hese concerns need to be balanced by the fact that it is entirely legitimate for political parties to encourage electors to vote, be it in person or by post".[33]

United StatesEdit

California Governor Gavin Newsom speaks about the decision to sign an executive order requiring mail in voting in the 2020 November election.

In the United States postal votings is commonly referred to as mail-in voting, vote-by-mail or vote from home[34] with a ballot being mailed to the home of a registered voter, who fills it out and returns it via postal mail or drops off the ballot in-person into a secure drop box or at a voting center. The deadlines are set under state law.[35] Vote-by-mail is available in both Republican and Democratic states,[36] with research showing that the availability of postal voting increases voter turnout.[37][36][38] It has been argued that postal voting has a greater risk of fraud than in-person voting though there are relatively few known instances of such fraud.[39] Processing large numbers of ballots and signature verifications accurately has numerous challenges other than fraud.[40][41][42]

In the 2016 US Presidential election, approximately 33 million postal ballots were cast, about a quarter of all ballots cast.[43] Some jurisdictions used only vote-by-mail and others used absentee voting by mail.

In April 2020, during lockdowns for the coronavirus pandemic, an NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll found that 58% of American voters would favor nationwide election reform to allow everyone to vote by mail.[44] For the upcoming November 2020 presidential election, postal voting is expected to be the preferred voting method in many locations due to the coronavirus pandemic. Despite the long history of postal voting and a large number of postal votes in the 2016 election, President Donald Trump has cast doubt of the integrity of unsolicited mail-in voting for the 2020 election. There is little evidence to support Trump's claim that postal voting enables widespread election fraud.[45]

See alsoEdit



  1. ^ Hill, Charlotte; Grumbach, Jacob; Bonica, Adam; Jefferson, Hakeem (2020). "We Should Never Have to Vote in Person Again". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2020-05-17.
  2. ^ a b c Wines, Michael (2020-05-25). "Which Party Would Benefit Most From Voting by Mail? It's Complicated". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2020-05-28.
  3. ^ Thompson, Daniel M.; Wu, Jennifer A.; Yoder, Jesse; Hall, Andrew B. (2020-06-09). "Universal vote-by-mail has no impact on partisan turnout or vote share". Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. 117 (25): 14052–14056. doi:10.1073/pnas.2007249117. ISSN 0027-8424. PMC 7322007. PMID 32518108.
  4. ^ Qvortrup, Matt (2005). "First past the Postman: Voting by Mail in Comparative Perspective". The Political Quarterly. 76 (3): 414–419. doi:10.1111/j.1467-923X.2005.00700.x. ISSN 1467-923X.
  5. ^ a b Muller, Damon (2016). "The 2016 federal election". Australian Parliamentary Library. Retrieved 11 April 2020.
  6. ^ a b Aitkin, Don; Morgan, Kim (1971). "Postal and Absent Voting: A Democratic Dilemma". The Australian Quarterly. 43 (3): 53–70. doi:10.2307/20634455. JSTOR 20634455.
  7. ^ Sawer, Marian; Norman Abjorensen; Philip Larkin (2009). Australia: The State of Democracy. Federation Press. pp. 107–114. ISBN 978-1862877252. Retrieved 13 June 2013.
  8. ^ Schedule 2—Grounds of application for postal or pre‑poll vote: "Commonwealth Electoral Act 1918". Federal Register of Legislation. 27 May 2020.
  9. ^ "How to vote by mail: easy to read guide" (PDF). Australian Electoral Commission. Retrieved 27 May 2020.
  10. ^ "Nationalratswahl 2017". Retrieved 2020-08-06.
  11. ^ Maas, Willem (2015). Access to Electoral Rights Canada. San Domenico di Fiesole (FI), Italy: EUDO Citizenship Observatory Robert Schuman Centre for Advanced Studies. p. 7.
  12. ^ Canada, Elections. "Report on the 42nd General Election of October 19, 2015". Retrieved 2020-08-06.
  13. ^ Canada, Elections. "Report on the 43rd General Election of October 21, 2019". Retrieved 2020-08-06.
  14. ^ "Postal voting". Vaalit. Retrieved 2020-08-06.
  15. ^ Patino, Marie. "What It's Like to Hold an Election in the Middle of a Pandemic". CityLab. Retrieved 2020-05-17.
  16. ^ "Home country elections - Hungary". Retrieved 2 May 2020.
  17. ^ "Kékcédulás levélszavazás". Átlátszó (in Hungarian). Retrieved 2 May 2020.
  18. ^ "Országos listák". Nemzeti Választási Iroda (in Hungarian). Retrieved 2 May 2020.
  19. ^ "Levélszavazás jegyzőkönyve". Nemzeti Választási Iroda (in Hungarian). Retrieved 2 May 2020.
  20. ^ "Postal ballots: Who can vote through ETPB, how to get registered and how the voting is done; an explainer". First Post. 2 April 2019.
  21. ^ Maharashtra, Haryana Elections 2019: Can You Vote By Postal Ballot If You Aren't Living At Home?, Huffington Post, 26 September 2019.
  22. ^ "People over 80 years of age, disabled can now vote through postal ballot". Jagran. 29 October 2019.
  23. ^ "Twitter". Retrieved 2020-06-30.
  24. ^ "Latest changes on postal ballots to favour ruling party: Sitaram Yechury to EC". Deccan Herald. 2020-06-30. Retrieved 2020-06-30.
  25. ^ "Postal ballots for voters over 64 gives ruling party an edge: Yechury". The Hindu. Special Correspondent. 2020-06-29. ISSN 0971-751X. Retrieved 2020-06-30.CS1 maint: others (link)
  26. ^ "Malaysian oppn accuse govt of postal vote fraud". ABC News. March 3, 2008. Retrieved 2008-04-24.
  27. ^ "One foot in the door". The Sun (Malaysia). March 27, 2008. Retrieved 2008-04-24.
  28. ^ Federal Statute on Political Rights , SR/RS 161.1 (E·D·F·I), art. 8 (E·D·F·I)
  29. ^ Killer, Christian; Stiller, Burkhard (2019). The Swiss Postal Voting Process and its System and Security Analysis. Communication Systems Group CSG, Department of Informatics IfI, Universitat Zurich UZH.
  30. ^ White, Isobel (19 January 2010). "Postal Voting & Electoral Fraud" (PDF). Parliament and Constitution Centre, House of Commons Library. SN/PC/3667. Archived from the original (PDF) on 23 April 2010. Retrieved 3 May 2010.
  31. ^ "How to vote". GOV.UK. Retrieved 2020-07-31.
  32. ^ "Application to vote by proxy at a particular election or referendum" (PDF). Cabinet Office, UK Government. 2020-04-27. Retrieved 2020-07-31.
  33. ^ Pickles, Eric (2016-08-11). "Securing the ballot, Report of Sir Eric Pickles' review into electoral fraud" (PDF). United Kingdom Government. Retrieved 2020-06-15.
  34. ^ "Vote from Home, Save Your Country". Washington Monthly. 2016-01-10. Retrieved 2018-11-24.
  35. ^ "VOPP: Table 11: Receipt and Postmark Deadlines for Absentee Ballots". Retrieved 2020-06-13.
  36. ^ a b Wines, Michael (2020-05-25). "Which Party Would Benefit Most From Voting by Mail? It's Complicated". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2020-05-28.
  37. ^ Hill, Charlotte; Grumbach, Jacob; Bonica, Adam; Jefferson, Hakeem (2020). "We Should Never Have to Vote in Person Again". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2020-05-17.
  38. ^ Thompson, Daniel M.; Wu, Jennifer A.; Yoder, Jesse; Hall, Andrew B. (2020-06-09). "Universal vote-by-mail has no impact on partisan turnout or vote share". Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. 117 (25): 14052–14056. doi:10.1073/pnas.2007249117. ISSN 0027-8424. PMC 7322007. PMID 32518108.
  39. ^ Young, Ashley (2016-09-23). "A Complete Guide To Early And Absentee Voting". Retrieved 2020-06-15.
  40. ^ "Signature Verification and Mail Ballots: Guaranteeing Access While Preserving Integrity" (PDF). Stanford University. 2020-04-15. Retrieved 2020-06-01.
  41. ^ Smith, Daniel (2018-09-18). "Vote-By-Mail Ballots Cast in Florida" (PDF). ACLU-Florida. Retrieved 2020-06-01.
  42. ^ Corasaniti, Nick; Saul, Stephanie (2020-04-09). "Inside Wisconsin's Election Mess: Thousands of Missing or Nullified Ballots". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2020-06-12.
  43. ^ Corse, Alexa; McMillan, Robert (23 May 2020). "Voting by Mail in November? States Need to Prepare Now". Wall Street Journal. ISSN 0099-9660. Retrieved 2020-06-02.
  44. ^ "Two-Thirds of Voters Back Vote-by-Mail in November 2020". NBC 5 Dallas-Fort Worth. Retrieved 2020-04-22.
  45. ^ "Donald Trump suggests delay to 2020 US presidential election". BBC News. 2020-07-30. Retrieved 2020-07-31.

External linksEdit