In many states across the country, voters appear to be returning to in-person voting for their top preference, after vote-by-mail was greatly increased and heavily promoted during the coronavirus pandemic.
According to the Associated Press, many states, including key swing states, have seen massive drops in the number of requests for mail-in ballots. In Georgia, where nearly one million ballots were cast by mail in the primary elections in 2020, only about 85,000 voters have requested mail-in ballots for this year’s primary. Other states that saw similar declines include Ohio, West Virginia, and Indiana.
In 2020, a record high of approximately 43 percent of American voters cast their ballots by mail; in 2016, by contrast, only about 24.5 percent sent in mail-in ballots. A key component of this trend was the COVID-19 pandemic, where lockdown measures that shut down businesses, schools, and everyday life led to increased calls for making voting easier and more convenient. At least 12 states significantly expanded vote-by-mail operations.
But despite predictions that vote-by-mail would become the new norm due to its convenience, voters are rejecting this method in favor of the traditional vote in person. Among the reasons for the reversal include the easing of COVID restrictions as the pandemic begins to subside, as well as numerous widespread questions about voter fraud in the 2020 election, in which mail-in ballots played a key role.
After numerous suspicious and sudden reversals of the vote count in key swing states on election night in 2020, President Trump and many other Republicans began pointing out the weaknesses in the security of mail-in ballots. In more recent years, evidence has continued to emerge that there was systematic voter fraud in the key swing states involving the mail-in ballots, orchestrated to steal the election from President Trump in favor of Democrat Joe Biden.
As a result, multiple Republican-led states – including Iowa, Georgia, Florida, and Texas – have passed new laws cracking down on mail-in ballots and other related measures, including legalized ballot-harvesting and ballot dropboxes.
Charles Stewart III, a political science professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), pointed out that even in 2021, when pandemic restrictions were still mostly in place, the Virginia elections saw fewer votes cast by mail than in 2020.
“Elections are kind of going back to where they were,” Stewart said bluntly.