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It’s Not Just About the White House: Down-ballot Voting is Important Too

While record numbers of voters are planning to cast a ballot this November – or are doing so right now, depending on the availability of early voting and mail-in balloting in your state – a troubling question is starting to emerge: will these voters, many of them first time voters, vote for more than who they want to see sitting in the White House come January 20?

The issue of a lack of “down-ballot voting,” as it is called, is hardly new. In a typical presidential election year, when barely 50 percent of eligible voters cast a ballot, a third or more of those voting don’t bother to fill out the entire ballot. While this will be by almost any measure a very atypical election, the question remains whether that same 30 percent of ballots will be about only one race and none other.

The good news is that voters don’t have to vote for everything on the ballot in order for the votes they do cast to be valid. Which is how it should be. But the bad news is that not voting down-ballot for state and local representatives and not voting on local issues – school bonds and referenda and funding for police and social services – means wasting an opportunity to have the broadest impact possible.

And that impact actually extends all the way back up the ballot as well. Not voting locally doesn’t just leave important issues up to a small minority of eligible voters, it can have a huge impact on future national elections in ways that may not seem obvious at first. Which is why we’re here to encourage you to fill out a much of that ballot as possible.

Here’s our top three reasons to fill out that ballot from top to bottom:

Tales from the US Vote Help Desk: Meet The Volunteers

Voting should be simple. It should be easy and efficient. It should allow any eligible citizen to claim their right to vote without difficulty.

It is not. Voting in the US is complicated, especially due to state-by-state differences that make it hard to participate in the most basic democratic process.

Now, as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, voters who would normally go to the polls on Election Day are seeking out other options. And that can be overwhelming.

No one knows this better than the people who answer voters’ questions and help guide them through the process. Meet Gabe and Pam, staffers on the U.S. Vote Foundation and their Overseas Vote help desks.

Vote at Home Tips for Newbies: Ballot Party, Anyone?

It’s possible that, like many of this year’s voters, you’re voting from home for the first time. Good for you. You may even be voting for first time, period. Even better. There’s a lot of good reasons to vote at home – safety in the midst of a pandemic being the main one these days. Another great reason is convenience: a vote at home ballot can be mailed in any time after it’s been received as long as it’s well before the November 3 election. (We’ll discuss when to actually mail in the ballot in a minute, but ASAP is a good rule of thumb.)

We at US Vote think there’s a third reason – though admittedly we’re biased. A real ballot, unfolded on your kitchen table, is actually pretty cool. Ballots are the raw material of democracy, the warp and weft of our society. Each one is collection of civic lessons, the blueprint for a civic society. A teaching and learning moment.

But we digress.

For those of you who might actually be voting for the first time, be prepared to be confused: Sorry, our democracy is a bit messy, and not only are the ballots themselves confusing, the information packets that come with them aren’t always as helpful as they should be. We’ve seen plenty of county guides that contradict state guides, with information about candidates that don’t necessarily apply to the ballot in front of you. Sometimes there’s nothing about a candidate, race or referendum at all – unfortunately. We warned you it could be messy.

Voting during a Disaster: How to Vote by Mail When The Mailbox is Gone

The news has been pretty grim if you live on the West Coast or the Gulf Coast: fires, hurricanes, evacuations, the loss of homes and businesses. The twin threat of seasonal fires and hurricanes are a constant reminder of the fragility inherent in the interplay between civilization and nature.

With both fire season and hurricane season still upon us, : thousands have already lost their homes, and hundreds of thousands have been evacuated. Many of those evacuated were able to return to their homes, but all too many are now permanently displaced. And while access to voting is not necessarily the highest priority in situations when life, home and hearth are literally at risk, it’s important to know that those who want to vote still have options even if “vote at home” is no longer feasible.

The main issue is how to get a hold of that ballot if there’s no longer a voter mailbox to which it can be delivered. As ballots are generally not forwardable – for obvious security reasons – obtaining a ballot will take some effort.

FedEx Launches Special 10-Country Next-Day US Ballot Return Program

FedEx Steps Up for Overseas Voters

FedEx has announced:

"For the upcoming US election, FedEx Express offers a fast, reliable way for Americans abroad to send ballots home. US voters living in 10 European countries can now take advantage of a special rate for overnight return of their absentee ballot.

From now through November, FedEx International Priority service for envelopes up to 500g sent to the USA costs just €25 from Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, Netherlands, Spain, Denmark (kr.186), Poland (112 zł), Sweden (260 kr), and the United Kingdom (£23)."

Special Instructions to Access the Discounted Price:

  • You must book online to access the discounted price.
  • You must create an account and set up payment by credit card to access the discounted price.
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Press Releases

U.S. Vote Foundation Calls for Immediate Action to Halt the Destruction of the United States Postal Service’s Functional Efficiency

The United States Postal Service is essential tax-payer funded infrastructure and must be protected.

Congress must act now! 

WASHINGTON, D.C. August 18, 2020 - U.S. Vote Foundation (US Vote) and our Overseas Vote initiative decry the deliberate crippling of the United States Postal Service (USPS) by the Postmaster General and the stated intention of the executive branch to irrevocably dismantle its efficiency in order to thwart the movement of ballots in the November 2020 General Election.

We call for Congress to recognize this situation as a Constitutional emergency and take immediate action to stop the devastation of the USPS before it is too late. Extra funding and a clear directive should be established to support the USPS to excel in mail delivery for the upcoming election and beyond.

The USPS stands today as the largest postal service in the world by both geography and volume, and is estimated to deliver 47% of the world’s mail: in sum, the USPS is essential infrastructure that the taxpayers have funded and it is an outrage that it be sabotaged to take away the voice of our nation’s citizens.

U.S. Vote Foundation Calls on Congress to Pass the Natural Disaster and Emergency Ballot Act of 2020

Immediate Legislative Action is Required to Provide All Voters Access to Vote-by-Mail Ballots

WASHINGTON D.C., March 24, 2020 - U.S. Vote Foundation (US Vote) today called for the United States Congress to pass the Natural Disaster and Emergency Ballot Act (NDEBA) of 2020 to ensure that all voters have access to vote-by-mail and adequate early voting options in the event of natural disasters and emergencies, such as what we are experiencing now with the COVID-19 epidemic.

"As specialists in absentee vote-by-mail ballot request services, US Vote knows that to successfully expand vote-by-mail, it cannot be a last minute decision. We strongly encourage Congress to take swift and decisive action to pass this legislation and to fully fund the improvements that will be needed for the 2020 election to be a safe one for all Americans. When exercising one's right to vote threatens lives, we have a moral duty to act to protect both the voters and our democracy," said Susan Dzieduszycka-Suinat, US Vote President and CEO. "Increased vote-by-mail volume could overwhelm election administrators unless immediate action is taken and they are given time to prepare."

U.S. Vote Foundation Calls on Congress to Mandate a Nationwide “No Excuse” Vote-by-Mail Option Across All States for 2020 Elections

Nationwide Response to Novel Coronavirus COVID-19 Should Include Uniform Election Law Across All States to Allow All Voters to Request Vote-by-Mail Ballots without an Excuse

WASHINGTON, D.C., March 9, 2020 - U.S. Vote Foundation (US Vote) today called for the United States Congress to issue a requirement that all states remove any and all barriers to vote-by-mail/absentee ballot request across all states at all levels, federal, state and municipal, for all 2020 elections including primaries, special, runoff and general elections.

“Ensuring voters can vote from home is a responsible and forward-thinking policy action that Congress should include in its response to the current public health situation,” said Michael Steele, Chairman of US Vote and its Overseas Vote initiative. “It is impossible for voters to predict whether they will be healthy and able to vote in-person. They should be assured they can vote safely with an absentee vote-by-mail ballot.”

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