Open Discussion: Vote By Mail

Over at Cwech Blug, this excellent thought was posted.

Here in McMinnville its been a torrential downpour all day, the last few days really, but worse today. Without mail in voting McMinnville voters would have to go through the worst conditions imaginable tomorrow in order to vote. Thanks to mail in voting only a few procrastinators must face this daunting task. Voters would need boats to get to the polls in these conditions.

What do you think? When did you get in your ballot? Is vote-by-mail a good thing for Oregon? What about for the rest of the nation?

  • (Show?)

    I've gotten pretty adept at pointing out the pluses and minuses of this, so if we're making policy on the basis of one time events, here's one for you.

    3,000,000 Californians (20% of the final tally) cast their ballots in 2003 before the allegations of sexual harassment against Arnold Schwarzenegger were revealed.

  • alantex (unverified)

    My wife and I mailed our ballots in Tuesday 10/31. We would have make it earlier, but I procrastinated with completed and sealed ballots sitting on my desk for a couple of days -- no good excuse, but the reminders to spare the GOTC callers (and ourselves) reminder calls goosed me into action.

    I like vote-by-mail (I had voted by absentee for years before vote-by-mail became the law of the land). Plenty of time to consider, research, inquire of friends, and mark the ballot very carefully without concerns about antsy folks waiting in line behind me.

    The paper vote-by-mail ballots provide an excellent paper trail -- a good compromise between the speed and accuracy of electronic vote counting and the safety of a paper backup.

    Vote-by-mail does make GOTV a considerably different proposition than traditional election date voting.

    I do think that Oregon's system of requiring ballots to be returned to county election offices by 8:00 pm on election day is superior to Washington's allowing election day postmarked ballots to be counted. That system is more confusing, more susceptible to fraud, and drives candidates and campaign workers nearly crazy.

  • alantex (unverified)

    Oops, that was supposed to be "GOTV".

  • Chuck Butcher (unverified)

    DPO is only about 1 day behind the curve on returned ballots so GOTV isn't too badly affected by our VBM system. If I wanted to go look, I could tell how many county votes were in and know who has/hasn't. Don't ask, I can't tell. Ask SOS.

    I like the relaxed version of voting, I like the paper trail, I like not being in line, I like not have to try to make time on a work day. I'd like to kick Waldenbush's ass for his vote to screw it up.

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    "3,000,000 Californians (20% of the final tally) cast their ballots in 2003 before the allegations of sexual harassment against Arnold Schwarzenegger were revealed."

    I suppose that's a bad thing if you're Karl Rove and like to engage in last-minute character assassination but why would it be a problem for the rest of us? it seems to me that lessening the incentive to make claims that can't be effectively refuted simply because of lack of time is a positive thing even if it occasionally may benefit Arnold Schwartzenegger.

    If you know something all the voters should know then tell them before any of them vote. If you just happen to find something out after half of them have voted that's still only half as bad as finding out the day after the election.

  • Suzii (unverified)

    Now, Doretta, you wouldn't happen to have the shenanigans of any judicial candidates in mind as you write that, would you?

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    (cross-posted from Re: Everything you wanted to know about Vote By Mail)

    In 2004, I got to compare Oregon’s vote-by-mail with New Mexico’s system when I assisted Election Protection in New Mexico

    As an Oregon voter, I had always liked vote-by-mail for its convenience and for increasing turnout. What I hadn’t appreciated was how much it simplifies and professionalizes the election system -- from hundreds of precincts with possibly thousands of (amateur) officials, we have just one counting place per county, all overseen by people, like the county clerk, that do this for a living. It makes oversight for the parties easier as well since there are fewer locations. In addition, there is just one method: paper ballots, for absentee, local voters, etc. Signatures are compared electronically, and if the ballot arrives early enough, the voter will be contacted if there is any question about the signature match, allowing a correction.

    For more, see my letter to The Nation re: Abolish Election Day.

  • (Show?)

    Count me as a fan of vote by mail. I feel that I'm a much better informed voter. My family likes to have ballot parties where we share information and research. We sometimes include a couple of like-minded friends.

    There were six of us on Sunday eating pizza and voting. Sending my ballot off to the library in that pile made it feel more significant too.

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    Paul -- 100% of Oregonians voted in 1992 before the allegations of sexual harassment against Bob Packwood were revealed.

    The "last minute information" argument is a silly one. There will always be more information in the future.

  • Borat (unverified)

    My wife used to vote in private election booth.

    Now we get impersonal and dangerous letter in the mail.

    I like to open her mail-vote-ballot and yell "COM'ERE!!" in my flannel shirt.

    Sometimes she hides, but when I catch her she votes like me.

    Vote by mail = two votes for Borat

    No more secret ballots = stronger family values

  • (Show?)

    We are counting every ballot mailed in, rain or shine. Catch the wave! Vote by mail rocks!

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    Borat, you just admitted to a felony and Kari has your IP address.

    "No, wait!" I hear you cry, "I didn't really do that, I just made it up for effect."

    I was concerned about that sort of thing when we began vote by mail but there's no evidence it's been an issue in real life.

  • Marty Wilde (unverified)

    I'd like to separate the issue of vote ONLY by mail from the issue of liberal use of absentee ballots. I'd really like to see a system where everyone registered gets sent a ballot, but where there are also enough polls open to let people who prefer to vote in person do that. Failing that, there should at least be a more liberal system of absentee balloting in the states. This should actually be a plank for us. Most people don't know how difficult it is to get an absentee ballot some places. For instance, since my wife is on active duty with the Air Force, we live in Texas for the next few months. To get an absentee ballot when I'm out of town for my Guard duty, I have to go down to the elections office before each election and sign a document saying that my military duty prevents me from being present. They've had two or three elections a year (lots of municipal elections) since I've been here, and I'm on duty an average of 120-180 days a year, making it a serious inconvenience to vote. Ironically, you'd think that they'd (meaning the Rs) want my demographic to vote, since we vote about 65% of the time for them. (I would be the notable exception.)

  • Sally (unverified)

    I like vote by mail. I also liked vote-election-day-at-polling-places. I could be persuaded that vote-by-mail should be abandoned if fraud was proven to be prevalent.

    The comment about "secret ballots" reminded me that my father, when he receives calls from pollsters asking him, "If the election were held tomorrow, how would you vote ....." responds

    "If the election were held tomorrow, I would vote via the secret ballot system."


  • Karl Smiley (unverified)

    I like filling out my ballot at the kitchen table, but I used to do that anyway with the sample ballots. I don't think that VBM is quite as corruptable as electronic voting, but I still don't trust it. If coersed votes haven't been a problem yet (and how would we know?), that doesn't mean they won't be in the future. Voting days should be national holidays.

    Oh yeah, and I miss the cookies and the old girls who ran our polling place.

  • eseiler (unverified)

    Even though I have excepted vbm as the system of voting in Oregon and sent in my ballot the day I received it, I would rather vote in a polling booth at my local precinct. I remain attached to the symbolism of going to the polls, the sense of community of standing in line with my neighbors, and feeling like I have truly participated in the democratic process. Yes, this is idealistic and I do understand why people like vbm (it eliminates many of the costs of voting).

    The problem I have w/ VBM is that it does not increase turn-out. Certainly, it does make it easier vote, but it does not make people want to vote. Those same people who did not go to the polls are not going to take the time to vote at home. As motor voter taught us, systemic changes do not increase voter turn-out, turn-out only increases when people believe that their vote matters or have a tangible stake in the election.

    Turn-out in Oregon has been strong in the last general elections not because of VBM, but because of the importance that Oregon has played as a swing state in the Presidential Election and closing of the gap between urban and rural voters in the state. THe national attention focused on Oregon, the increase in candidate appearences, and the increase in retail campaigning and get-out-the-vote efforts by the parties. Oregonians recognized that there one vote does matter and would have impact on the election.

    Do not misunderstand my opposition to vbm, I believe in any efforts to remove barriers to voting, but those efforts must go hand-in-hand increasing voter awareness and education.

  • Zak J. (unverified)

    Given the number of initiatives and basically invisible offices, mostly judgeships, we have to vote on each election, I'd need to show up at the ballot box with a couple pages of voting crib sheets unless I wanted to hog a booth for an hour or two. I just can't imagine going back to voting at polls.

  • Karl Smiley (unverified)

    Zak, Didn't you get sample ballots?

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    No, it's not silly. Yes, 100% of the Oregon electorate... 100% . Not 10% or 30% or 50%. Doesn't that sort of inequality in information bother you?

    Under an election day system, all of the various information sources (campaigns, GOTV organizations, media) focus in on one day--election day. Under VBM, no one know exactly at what stage we are at. When do you run the candidate profile story in the paper? When do you run your advertisements?

    There may be reasons for VBM, but having a fully and equally informed electorate is simply not one of them.

    In terms of VBM making you "more" informed, I've never understood that point. What about election day required you to wait to mull over your choices until you walked into the polling place? Why is "voting alone" somehow different in terms of getting yourself informed than voting in a precinct?

    William lists the administrative conveniences of VBM, and they are significant.

  • Tina (unverified)

    I used to get asked often how the vote by mail in Oregon was working and I would always reply, "We sure do it better then Florida." Now I could say we do it better then Florida, Texas, New Mexico, Ohio and all the other places where voter suppression and fraud are on going problems.

    Oregon's Vote By Mail Rocks and the rest of the Country should follow our lead.

    In answer to Borat, I have advised people in domestic abuse situations (both male and female) to go in person (after the fact) when you feel it is safe, to the county elections office and make a spoiled ballot request and vote in complete privacy the way you want. For some of these people voting this way has been the only way they could vote as they were not being allowed to vote (or where being punished if they did) when they went to a polling place. It is still not perfect but closer then any other system Americans have found for voting.

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