WASHINGTON — A majority of voters — 58 percent — favor a nationwide reform of election rules that would allow all eligible voters to cast their ballots by mail, a new NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll finds. And nearly ten percent more say that, while the rules should not be permanently changed, all voters should be able to mail in their ballots in November 2020 due to concerns that the coronavirus may still be a major public health threat this fall.
The survey shows that 58 percent of voters support allowing voting-by-mail generally, while 39 percent do not support it.
When an additional 9 percent of voters who back a one-time exception for November are added in, a total of two thirds — 67 percent — of the American electorate supports allowing anyone to vote-by-mail in this year’s general election. Just 29 percent disagree.
The majority support for voting-by-mail overall represents a significant change over the past quarter-century. A Pew News Interest Index poll in February 1996 found that 48 percent favored allowing vote-by-mail for all voters, while 47 percent opposed it.
The results of the NBC/WSJ survey come after more than a dozen states postponed their presidential primary contests or changed to all-mail formats amid worries that in-person voting would put the health of poll workers and voters alike at risk.
The rules for administering elections are determined by individual states rather than by federal law. Five states, including Colorado and Washington, already conduct elections entirely by mail, and more than half of states allow voters to submit an absentee ballot with no excuse needed.
Democrats want Congress to mandate that states expand vote-by-mail and have argued that states may need as much as $4 billion in federal aid to shore up the resources needed for a huge increase in absentee mail voting in the fall due to coronavirus concerns.
But many Republicans, including President Donald Trump, say that mail balloting could dramatically increase the likelihood of fraud. Trump said in a press conference earlier this month that he opposes the idea of allowing nationwide vote-by-mail in November, saying he believes “a lot of people cheat” with mail ballots.
Those partisan differences were reflected in the poll’s results.
Of the 58 percent who support changing election laws to allow anyone to vote by mail in all elections going forward, 82 percent were Democrats, 61 percent were independents and just 31 percent were Republicans.
And of the combined 67 percent who support EITHER permanent changes to the nation’s laws or a one-time exception for November, 88 percent were Democrats, 69 percent were independents and just 44 percent were Republicans.
The poll of 900 registered voters was conducted April 13-15. The margin of error is +/- 3.27 percentage points.