What's wrong with 'voting alone'?
Americans are voting with their feet, walking away from polling places and casting ballots how and when they prefer -- the Oregon way, by mail, and over several weeks' time.Oregon has had 100% vote by mail for several years. Have you heard about any problems with an Oregon election in that time?
The election purists and academics who have disliked vote by mail from the start, more than a decade ago, are horrified. They warn of rising voter fraud and lament the loss of the civic ritual of Election Day, describing the new trend as "voting alone."
Well, yesterday was an Election Day in Oregon. So is today. Tomorrow will be, too. Oregon still has a civic ritual; it simply lasts longer.
The claim that mail or absentee ballots are especially prone to fraud is not backed up by Oregon's real-life experience. Every mail ballot must include a signature checked against a voter's original registration form before the vote is counted. What system, anywhere, is more secure?
Remember, it was Florida, not Oregon, that could not decide who won its 2000 presidential election. It was Ohio, not Oregon, that stained the 2004 election. It's not Oregon that uses unproven, unreliable voting machines that leave no paper trail. It's not Oregon where voters are left in long, long lines, where uncounted thousands give up and go home in disgust.Washington has followed Oregon in Vote by Mail, nearly 80% of the counties in Washington will vote that way this year. And more will follow.
So if Americans are turning to absentee ballots, we say go right ahead. An estimated 20 percent of voters nationwide are expected to cast their ballots before Nov. 7 by mail or at early-voting locations.Not perfect - but...
That percentage will only grow. Arizona voters will decide in this election whether to move to mail-in balloting statewide.
Of course, no election system, including mail balloting, is perfect. There have been isolated reports of coercion in the use of absentee ballots in nursing homes, for example. States also have found themselves operating two parallel election systems when they try to maintain polling places and wide-open absentee balloting.Politicians hate Vote By Mail. It waters down all the age old last minute smear campaigns - the October surprises. In my book that's a good thing.
But most objections about mail ballots don't stand up under scrutiny. It's said that those who vote early miss late-breaking events in campaigns. Well, yes, but virtually all the late-breaking "news" in campaigns is of the slimy, October-surprise variety. Besides, voters can hang onto their mail ballots until the final Election Day if they wish, and a growing number of Oregonians are doing so.
It's also claimed that traditional polling place elections "engage" people in a way that mail elections don't. We'd put Oregon's political engagement, its voter turnout, its sense of community, up against most other states'. Oregon's voter turnout is consistently in the top five in the nation. It would be even higher if this state would, as it should, allow voter registration up to and on Election Day.
The nonpartisan research group Electionline.org recently warned that with all the new voting machinery installed around the country, "the potential is there for a messy Nov. 7." But in a long list of states likely to experience problems, there was no mention, none, of the only one that conducts its entire election by mail.
Vote By Mail, Voting