Can Vote-by-Mail Fix Those Long Lines At The Polls?

Patti Epler/Civil Beat

Editor's Note: Ballot shortages meant long lines for Hawaii voters on election night — and many left instead of waiting for hours to cast a vote. Gov. Neil Abercrombie asked the Legislature to consider allowing all mail-in voting. However, as more people vote absentee, the potential for voter fraud and voter intimidation also grows. There are at least two bills moving through the Legislature that bar candidates from handling ballots or helping voters fill them out.

In his State of the Union address, President Obama returned to a point he'd made on election night: The need to do something about long voting lines. Obama announced his plan for a commission to "improve the voting experience in America."

But often missing from discussions about how to make voting easier is the rapid expansion of absentee balloting. Letting people vote from home means fewer people queuing up at overburdened polling places. So why hasn't vote-by-mail been heralded as the solution?

When it comes to absentee and mail-in voting, researchers and voting rights advocates aren't sure the convenience is worth the potential for hundreds of thousands of rejected ballots.

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