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More Texans Are Voting Early by Mail. But Only Some Are Allowed To.

Today is the deadline for Texas voters to request a ballot so they can vote absentee by mail. Such voting is on the rise. More than 227,000 Texans have already voted by mail, more than in 2012 and 2014.

But there are hurdles for voters to do it: Those younger than 65 need to provide a reason. (The options: illness, disability, incarceration, and "I'm going to be out of town on Election Day.") Twenty-seven states and the District of Columbia offer no-reason-needed absentee voting to all voters. Texas is one of just five states that only offers it to voters of a certain age.

To vote by mail, Texans also need to request a ballot every time there's an election. The state doesn't have a permanent list of absentee voters.

Once Texans begin voting by mail, they are more likely to continue doing so, according to research by Marc Meredith and Zac Endter of the University of Pennsylvania. Their paper, which looked at Texas voters from 2000-2012, also contains an unusual finding: Occasional voters tended to use absentee ballots more, particularly if they were older. Older Texans who registered to vote more recently were also much more likely to vote absentee than in-person, suggesting that once a voter decides on a method of voting she tends to stick with it.

The researchers concluded that no-excuse absentee voting helps keep older votes in the electorate by making it easier for them to vote and less for disruptive for them if they move.

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Portrait of Derek Willis

Derek Willis

Derek Willis is a news applications developer at ProPublica, focusing on politics and elections.

About Electionland

ProPublica’s Electionland project covers problems that prevent eligible voters from casting their ballots during the 2020 elections. Our coalition of newsrooms around the country are investigating issues related to voter registration, pandemic-related changes to voting, the shift to vote-by-mail, cybersecurity, voter education, misinformation, and more.

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