But traditionally, to get an absentee ballot you had to give a specific reason that you would be unable to make it to your regular polling place on election day. But in the last couple of decades a growing number of states are dropping these restrictions, allowing anyone to vote by mail without giving a reason. ~Tim Lee
As a regular absentee voter, I don’t see the problem with ending these restrictions. More to the point, the requirement to give a specific reason for being absent wouldn’t change anything. It would simply create one more hoop for absentee voters to jump through, and there would be no way to verify if that reason is valid or not. If I had been required to give a specific reason why I couldn’t be at my polling place when filling out my absentee ballot application in years past, I would have had to give the same reason for each of the last four general elections: I was out of state on election day because I was a student. That’s true, but there would have been no effort to verify that.
This year is a bit different in that I just moved back to Illinois, but I did not find the time in the last month and a half to register here before the deadline. Once again, I applied for an absentee ballot in New Mexico, where I am registered. Were absentee voting rules more restrictive, or were absentee voting not permitted, I probably would not be able to vote in this year’s election. Given the laughable choices available, that wouldn’t be so terrible as far as I’m concerned, but that isn’t the point. Absentee voting is essential to making it much easier for people to move around the country without being cut off from the electoral process, and it is also very important for enfranchising students in their home states. I suppose students can and do register wherever they happen to be, but that isn’t something that they should have to do, and fortunately they don’t.
I don’t know which party is more adversely affected by restrictions on absentee voting. Based on my understanding of absentee returns in Albuquerque, I believe Republican and right-leaning voters would be disadvantaged if absentee voting were more difficult, but that would probably vary by district and state. Regardless, keeping people who vote absentee out of the process or making it more difficult for them to participate in the political process seems far worse than the unlikely scenarios Lee has proposed. Come to think of it, if there are husbands who insist on pressuring their wives to vote the same way, they are going to exert that pressure whether or not there is a secret ballot. If employers are going to pressure their employees to vote a certain way, those pressures are probably going to be unspoken and subtle, and they wouldn’t be avoided by restricting or ending absentee voting.