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Voters of color likely to vote by mail in November election despite lack of trust in system, research finds

HIT Strategies outlined how voters, organizations, and election boards can use the data to encourage people of color to vote by mail before Nov. 3.

WASHINGTON — Election boards across the D.C. area are expecting a large number of mail-in and absentee ballots for the 2020 Presidential Election.

The increase is a result of voters seeking safer alternatives to casting their ballots during the coronavirus pandemic.

However, some research found many voters of color do not have trust in the system.

“Overwhelmingly, voters of color are pursuing safer alternatives,” said Terrance Woodbury, partner with HIT Strategies.

HIT Strategies is a research firm based in the DMV that puts together polls, focus groups, and surveys with women, minorities, millennials and Gen Z.

The firm’s latest research centers around voting by mail for non-white voters.

The survey consisted of 800 non-white voters with a 200-person sample each of African-American, Latinx, Asian American/Pacific Islander, and LGBTQ voters.

HIT Strategies found nearly half (48%) of the people of color (POC) surveyed are likely to vote by mail in the November election.

The biggest reason for POC voting by mail is the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The inverse of that is while they are becoming more and more likely to vote by mail, they are becoming less and less confident in the system,” Woodbury said. “I think what that tells us is what we should expect on Nov. 4 and beyond and how voters perceive the counting process. Will they have confidence in the ballots that are being counted after election day? Will they have confidence in the integrity of the election?”

Credit: HIT Strategies

HIT Strategies found voters would be most discouraged to vote by mail if the process required a witness to sign the ballot, community organizations to pick up ballots, or if postage was not pre-paid.

D.C., Maryland, and Virginia have addressed those barriers for the presidential election with paid postage and new protocols around absentee and mail-in ballots.

“The reluctance and lack of confidence in the system was less about voting from home and more about sticking that ballot in the mailbox,” Woodbury told WUSA9.

Woodbury explained voters of color did not trust that their votes would be delivered or counted properly or be received by election officials before their jurisdiction’s deadline.

HIT Strategies outlined how voters, organizations, and election boards can use the data to encourage people of color to vote by mail before Nov. 3.

“One way is to reduce the barriers that will prevent them from doing something, and the other is to increase the motivations that would encourage them to do a thing,” Woodbury said.

Researchers detailed people of color can be encouraged to vote by mail through the following methods:

  • Early public education to target audiences explaining the process in vivid detail
  • Amongst young voters, emphasis must be provided on the cost and locations to purchase postage online and/or in-person.
  • Use testimonials of people from the target community that have already voted by mail to describe benefits
  • Show images of the ballot, postage, and websites that provide mail-in ballot services.
Credit: HIT Strategies

Woodbury said it is also important to show voters how they can ensure their votes are counted, such as online ballot tracking.

Mail-in ballots must be received by Nov. 6. in Virginia, Nov. 9. in West Virginia, and Nov. 13. in D.C. and Maryland.

All ballots must be postmarked by Nov. 3.

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