News Releases

Murray Announces Win for Mail-In Voting

Feb 27 2002

Applauds photo identification amendment as way to break down barriers for Washington state voters

(WASHINGTON, D.C.) – The U.S. Senate today took an important step in preserving the rights of Washington state's mail-in voters. By a vote of 51-46, the Senate defeated an attempt to kill the Schumer/Wyden amendment, co-sponsored by Senator Murray (D-Wash.), which would allow states with significant numbers of mail-in voters to create a verification system where signatures are matched against their registration. The existing bill would require first-time voters to present some form of identification prior to voting.

"Mail-in voting is a proven and effective way to empower more voters," Senator Murray said. "Our amendment would remove burdensome hurdles that could potentially displace many new voters who want to get involved in the election process but could not without vote-by-mail."

"Many Washington state voters don't have access to a polling place because they lack transportation, they are working hard to provide for their families or they are elderly or disabled. The ability to vote by mail gives them the opportunity to participate in our democracy."

While the measure to table the Schumer/Wyden amendment was defeated, the provision still awaits adoption within the larger Election Reform Bill.

Senator Murray's full statement of support for the Schumer/Wyden amendment follows:

Mr. President, I rise in support of the Schumer/Wyden amendment.

Mr. President, the 2000 election clearly illustrated that there are significant flaws in our election system. In many places our systems of voting are antiquated and people are being disenfranchised.

The bill we have before us seeks to correct those problems. It would improve voting systems, provide a means for provisional voting, cut down on voter fraud, and provide grants to states so they can improve their methods of voting.

The bill is not perfect. During consideration of this bill, I have worked with my colleagues on both sides to make sure that the intent of this reform bill is realized.

We want fewer people turned away from the polls, and we want to bring our states' election systems into the 21st century.

In my home state of Washington, 69-percent of votes in last November's election were cast by mail. Every election that percentage increases, and those numbers are larger for new voters. In the state of Oregon, by law every voter casts his or her ballot by mail.

This method has made it much easier for those that lack adequate transportation or are elderly or disabled to vote. Previously disenfranchised voters now can exercise their most important civic duty because of vote by mail.

This legislation has several provisions that make the vote by mail process more difficult and in some cases could kill this method of voting. Two weeks ago, I worked with Senators Cantwell, Dodd, McConnell, Wyden and others to perfect a provision in the bill that would have placed an undo burden on jurisdictions utilizing vote by mail. I thank those Senators who worked on that amendment.

There is a remaining obstacle to mail-in balloting that requires first-time voters to show some identification prior to voting.

Many voters don't have access to a polling place because they lack transportation, they are working too hard to provide for their families or are elderly or disabled. The ability to vote by mail gives them the opportunity to participate in our democracy. These are the voters we cannot abandon as we seek to address some of the obvious deficiencies in our nation's current electoral system.