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E-mail, Feeds, 'n' Stuff

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

It's Election Day

At our place, there are a few contested education board elections that close today, but that's about it. We've filled out our ballots, but will we be motivated enough to take them to the local drop-off center? Probably; the thought of passing on a chance to vote is just depressing enough to get our walking shoes on. Plus, there's the keeping-up-with-the-Joneses factor: I know our dead neighbor down the street has already voted.

Comments (14)

We dropped-off ours yesterday. Long ago I used to skip uncontested races out of a sense of personal efficiency. Now, if the candidate looks good, I give him or her a vote for running.

I'm glad we aren't in Bernie's MESD district. I'd have have made a frantic last minute search for some viable write-in alternative.

Jack- Are you against vote-by-mail? Just wondering...

Yep. Too much opportunity for fraud.

Was your neighbor from Chicago in 1960?

I think the opportunities for significant fraud (actually stealing an election) in vote-by-mail are very limited -- maybe even more limited than in traditional ballot boxes or in the computer tabulation process. But I don't like vote-by-mail for another, probably altogether impractical reason: it trivializes voting by putting it on a par with a consumer survey.

This may sound corny, but in addition to the opportunity for fraud, vote-granny-by-mail also dispenses with the important civic ritual of going down to the school, post office or whatever & voting with your neighbors, and seeing the place run by people you know. Granted, the optically-scanned ballots used here are marginally better than complete black-box voting, but the sense of community fostered by a quick visit to a polling place is more important than many realize. Where's Frank Capra when you need him? Frankly, if it were up to me, I'd require people to dress in Togas to vote, to emphasize the seriousness of what they are doing.

The typical fraud goes like this: One member of a household hands his or her ballot over to another, more knowledgable member of the house to fill out. The first member signs the envelope, but the second actually fills out and mails the ballot. The "voter" has no idea what he or she just "voted" for.

This happens all the time in Oregon.

Sure, under traditional voting systems, something similar could happen inside a voting booth, but with a lot less frequency than it does under vote-by-mail.

Has any study ever been done about how the Oregon system actually works in individual households? Of course not. Like everything else around here, we just keep telling ourselves that we're different, and we're wonderful. No questions, please.

I just mark whatever AFSCME tells me and call it good. I use my own pencil.

Keep Portland Corrupt!

It's not just voting in the same household.

A knowledgeable friend asked me about the school board candidates out here in Beaverton as he could not determine who was the best candidate from the minimal info in the voter pamphlet. I passed on my recommendations, and he most likely voted for them because he didn't want to spend any time researching further.

Yes, he completed his own ballot, and probably could have taken notes into a voting booth to figure out who to vote for.

Or he could simply vote "top of the ticket", or middle or bottom or not at all.

At least with vote-by-mail, there is an opportunity to make a more informed decision at the kitchen table, rather than inside the voting booth.

A true anecdote: several years ago, my neighbor called about another school election. She too asked about the candidates for our local school committee. There was no info in the voters pamphlet at all for this obscure position. Two candidates were listed on the ballot, and she asked me for my opinion. As I read the ballot, I reminded her that the ballot said "Pick 3".

A few weeks later, I got a letter from the Board of Elections in Washington County, informing me that I had been elected to the Local School Committee for the elementary school for our neighborhood. The letter asked whether I would serve.

I found out later that the 3 voters in my neighbor's household wrote me in as the 3rd choice. I was elected with those 3 votes! I didn't even have to vote for myself.

Fraud? I don't think so.

Could there be fraud in other vote-by-mail elections? Perhaps.

Did I serve? Yes. It led to several years of activism in the schools.

there is an opportunity to make a more informed decision at the kitchen table, rather than inside the voting booth.

Nonsense. In traditional voting, if it's done right, you're sent the same voter's pamphlet you get now, plus a sample ballot showing what you'll be asked to fill out at the polling place.

But you can't send your spouse to vote for you.

I am opposed to vote by mail.
We deserve to be governed by voters who care enough to walk a couple blocks, or stand in line for 20 minutes. I want some people to look out the window and see rain or sleet or inconvenience and decide to just skip it. Governance is better if the electorate cares just a little.

And there's yet another issue with vote-by-mail that leaves me a bit uncomfortable. Early ballot turn-ins are duly recorded with the Secretary of State's publicly accessible database - along with party affiliation, age, gender, and senate and house districts. This allows selective home visits, phone calls, and yes, sometimes robocalls, to target a segment of the registered voter population that may be perceived to vote in a manner the caller deems favorable (or unfavorable, in some cases) to a selected candidate or issue.

I'll have to admit that I did door knock visits this last election, where our database was constructed as I described, and we were instructed to only go to the specific addresses listed. But I'm still a bit uncomfortable with it. Long term, I think fine-tuned robo-mudslinging could become a common practice.

Do it all in one day, and this is not practical.

What I like about Vote By Mail is being able to sit around the kitchen table with my husband and our 2 teenagers and discuss the issues, weigh the pros and cons (or cons and worse cons) of the various candidates, and come to a thoughtful decision (or best guess), all while teaching our kids to do the same. Sure we did this when we voted down the street, but we spent a lot of time debating candidates that we ended up not being eligible to vote for.

we spent a lot of time debating candidates that we ended up not being eligible to vote for

They should have sent you a sample ballot so that you could see which races you were eligible to vote on.

Sure we did this when we voted down the street

I guess I'm missing your point. You could have brought your kids with you to the polls.

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