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This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on May 8, 2012 8:45 AM. The previous post in this blog was Does Metro now have three "reporters" on staff?. The next post in this blog is Do Tri-Met bus cuts violate your civil rights?. Many more can be found on the main index page or by looking through the archives.

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Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Civic duty

Oregon's vote-by-mail system is really something. Unlike old-fashioned voting at actual polls, we denizens of the Beaver State can take our time over several weeks and cast our votes from the comfort of our own homes. This saves the county the expense of operating polling places -- money that it can put to much better use, such as hiring people to open all the mail it gets.

Voting by mail also ensures that every Oregonian gets a chance to participate in democracy, even if he or she is a shut-in. Indeed, comatose people get to vote -- even dead people. And if you live with a spouse or roommates who don't follow politics, all you need is for them to sign over their envelope to you, and you get to vote multiple times. It's a veritable land of opportunity out here.

There are other advantages. With our busy schedule, we do a lot of multi-tasking, and we like to peruse our ballot while performing other tasks, such as eating dinner. Vote-by-mail fits fight in with this kind of active lifestyle.

Take last evening, for example. We were able to take the ballot with us into the john for study. The ballot this time around is long and complex, and fortunately the task at hand was of a nature that could be handled at a leisurely pace. As we made headway, the Mrs., in the next room, heard us grunting and sighing. She called in, "Is everything o.k.?" "Fine, dear," we answered cheerfully. "Just looking at the Metro races."

When our business was finished and we stood up for the winding up of the process, we discovered to our dismay that there was no tissue available. The nearest supply was two stories down, in the basement. Ah, but there! There on the bathroom counter... was the Oregon voter's pamphlet.

Let's just say we were happier than ever to see Earl Blumenauer, and for once we got our money's worth out of that guy. We finished tidying up with a state race -- it might have been Tina Kotek and Daniel Ticknor -- and called it a night.

Comments (26)

I do think the mail-in ballot thing is genius. But I'm gonna miss actually going to the polls to vote. The only time I ever voted by mail was when I was in college and cast an absentee ballot.

Ah well, another NW custom to get used to.

Going to the polls is a great civic and community activity. I remember people coming to vote at my elementary school gym when I was a kid. It brought the community into the school, the kids got to see democracy in process - it was great. I miss it.

But I do enjoy filling out my wife's ballot for her and Grandma's, bless her soul, if i can get my hands before my uncle does...

LOL! I've multi-tasked in the exact same way, though without the desperate measures at the end.

The Metro race between Bob Stacey and a grad student in social work was especially depressing to me. That is "choice" in Portland. We are doomed.

I honestly wish we had similar voter pamphlets in Texas, and not just so you knew what a candidate stood for other than the big red "REPUBLICAN" on his/her election signs. My only worry is that when upcycling the guides in the way you did, using Joe Barton and Pete Sessions like that might be redundant.

Thanks for the multi-tasking idea. Time for my mid-morning constitutional & civic duty.

It is worth mentioning that Australia has a system of compulsory voting. It states that for all legally certified Australian citizens:

"Voting is compulsory both at federal elections and at elections for the state and territory legislatures.

"In the states of South Australia, Tasmania and Western Australia voting at local elections is not compulsory. About 5% of enrolled voters fail to vote at most elections. People in this situation are asked to explain their failure to vote. If no satisfactory reason is provided (for example, illness or religious prohibition), a relatively small fine is imposed ($20), and failure to pay the fine may result in a court hearing."

(source: http://tinyurl.com/Compulsory-Voting)

I'd vote for anybody other than Bob Stacy.

Sadly, not my Metro Council District.

Carlotta "Where can I buy a clue" Collette is in this Metro district.

Voting by mail also ensures that every Oregonian gets a chance to participate in democracy, even if he or she is a shut-in.

Or, frequently, deceased.

... as noted in the next sentence of your post.

My bad.

(slinks away)

Which do you suppose is a bigger problem:

Voter fraud in Oregon--people marking each other's ballots, coercing others to vote, or dead people voting (the voter rolls are regularly purged of the deceased)?

OR....

Legal voter suppression activities in other states, often justified on the need to combat (unspecified or overblown) fraud, which tries to make it hard or expensive for legal voters to actually vote, particularly those who are poor and/or minorities? (Passage of such laws seem to be a mainly Republican practice).

You recently ran a cartoon, Jack, contrasting the plethora of voter-ID laws with Citizens United--noting that the buying of elections seems to be regarded as a more fundamental right than the right to vote in them.

And then we have this article, which seems to play into the arguments FOR erecting barriers to voting.

I've yet to hear of ANY systematic fraud in Oregon elections. Voter participation here is much higher than in other states. Regardless of who people vote for (and the question of who gets on the ballot in the first place has nothing to do with how elections are conducted), I think this is a good thing.

It is worth mentioning that Australia has a system of compulsory voting.

I have no problem with vote-by-mail, or even the choice to vote or not.

But a good compromise would be to require re-registration every two (or four?) years. Or, purge the voter rolls of anyone who hasn't voted in so many elections or so many years. (You didn't vote in the last three elections? You probably won't vote again...)

Sure it's a little more work, but isn't an election process worth having the best process out there?

EngineerScotty, you aren't paying attention. You just don't want to know how voting fraud occurs or that it does occur. And isn't it profiling to conclude that requiring ID unnecessarily limits access by the poor, the immigrants, and the infirmed?

Complaining about the requirement for ID is misplaced concern:
- owning a gun is a constitutional right, too. Try purchasing a gun without ID.

Heck, try to get anything done today without any form of ID. And if having ID is unimportant, why is there a market for phony IDs?

As for vote-by-mail, absentee ballot, or polling place, each method can be gamed so efforts to maintain the integrity are welcome. Not quite the same as suppression.

Reminds me of the oft told anecdote in stores where the checker asks customer for ID after offering to pay with a check or credit card. Customer replies that they don't have any with them. Hard to believe, especially when it's obvious the customer drove to the store. No drivers license?

When I look at the voters pamphlet and try to evaluate the candidates, I look for the character clues. That's about the only thing that might separate the good from the bad.

Disclaimer: I don't own any guns, but don't mind that others do.

EngineerScotty, you aren't paying attention. You just don't want to know how voting fraud occurs or that it does occur.

Sure I do. If you have evidence, I'm all ears. The cops are likely interested as well, as the sort of thing that Bojack supposes is occurring on a regular basis is a felony under Oregon law.

And isn't it profiling to conclude that requiring ID unnecessarily limits access by the poor, the immigrants, and the infirmed?

Profiling refers to the practice of subjugating an individual person for action (such as a police stop) based on group characteristics (such as race or clothing). Turning a black guy away from the polls because you think he looks suspicious, might be profiling (especially if you have no other reason to suspect him other than race). Noting that certain ID practices may have a disparate impact on communities, not so much.

I'm not objecting to requiring ID per se. Oregon use to have (and still does) "precinct memorandum cards", which poll workers could demand to see--though they seldom did. What I object to is a system of verification which makes it expensive to demonstrate that one is a valid voter; several states have passed laws requiring numerous procedural hoops to be passed before one gets poll-acceptable ID.

Some of these laws may end up being trumped by Federal law, though; a recent court decision threw out parts of an Arizona voter-ID law--specifically requiring prospective voters to provide passports, naturalization papers, or birth certificates in order to register. Federal law, which pre-empts state law in election administration, requires that prospective voters swear under penalty of perjury that they are US citizens and eligible to vote; the Court held that states cannot require additional documentation beyond this.

And if someone DOES try to commit electoral fraud--I'm all for throwing the book at 'em.

I don't mind others owning guns either, BTW...so long as they don't go around shooting them in inappropriate places.

Jack,
You're nearly always good. This time you were brilliant.

Upon her death my mother did not get any more ballots, but she was called for jury duty!

I've gotten a few jury summons for the prior occupants of my home, FWIW... lucky for them they live out of state and are thus ineligible to server as jurors in Washington County district court.

EngineerScotty:

Google is your friend. Simply search for "voter fraud convictions":
Google search for "voter fraud convictions"

There seem to be a few of these.

In some of the court cases that challenged voter ID laws, it was impossible to provide proof of suppression, or the challengers decided to not provide examples of people being denied the chance to vote. This was a Supreme Court ruling in Indiana throwing out the challenge. This is being revisited in yet another challenge in Pennsylvania. The usual argument is that charges to obtain an ID are equivalent to an illegal poll tax, or other hardships may prevent a person from providing proof of citizenship.

Still, I maintain it is near impossible to function in the US without some sort of legal ID. The periphery of people who don't have or refuse to have ID perhaps is worth examining. There are resources available to help these people as long as they choose to seek assistance.

I hope you got a little for Holton.

I just realized I actually know that guy from law school...Some of the wacky things he believed really stuck out. Like when he said that traffic in weed is much more violent than other drugs because of the low profit margin...or that the US justice system is not up to the task of trying terrorists so the military needs to do it (obvious politicking)...

Not all bad, just some wacky and clearly erroneous notions. Very much an East Coaster, but he's been here for awhile now. He and I went round and round, he was a good sport about it.

He'll be the second AG in a row I've met and said, "You know your really out of your mind." HA! What a distinction for me. :-)

Mike: Key words were "systematic" and "Oregon"

Key words were "systematic" and "Oregon"

Exactly. I didn't say it never occurs; but I haven't seen any evidence that it's a significant problem here--let alone enough to influence the results of any elections.

The problem of ineligible voters voting, or voters voting more than once, used to be a staple of big-city machine politics. Modern reforms have reduced the significance of this in US politics.

The problem of denying citizens the right to vote, particularly African-Americans, has also been a longstanding problem in US politics. While many reforms have helped to curb this as well (the poll tax amendment, the Voting Rights act), it still remains a problem in some states.

Engineer Scotty -

regarding voter fraud, the cops couldn't care less.

Its up to the Or Secy of State to ask a DA to prosecute.

And it just doesn't happen.

If the Sec State asked a DA to prosecute for fraud, the Sec State would be admitting that either the registration process (mail in the boxtop with no id whatsoever) or the vote by mail process were flawed, allowing fraud.

And since the days of Barbara Roberts as Sec State, no Oregon Sec State iis willing to admit to any exploitable flaws in either the registration process or the vote by mail process.

Meh. Voter fraud. A non-issue. Not even in the top 20 things to worry about really.

Not that you shouldn't go right on talking about it. Not trying to quell the discussion at all. I'll go on for hours about the best color of legal paper. This issue is far more important than that. :-)

PS: The best color is white with a blue pen.

Oregon district attorneys can prosecute any violation of Oregon law, without needing prior approval from the Secretary of State. (And voter fraud prosecutions DO happen in Oregon; just not very often).

The sort of fraud I'd be worried about in a vote-by-mail system isn't illegal registrations (if someone who is ineligible successfully registers to vote, how they actually cast that vote isn't going to matter much), it's employers and other leaders who demand to see (or fill in) the ballots of their underlings, something that casting a secret ballot in a secure polling place prevents.

Or incidents like this one.

From PA 2010 gubernatorial election:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZxoiGXAvyAc&feature=relmfu

Meh. Voter fraud. A non-issue. Not even in the top 20 things to worry about really.

Unless he's a candidate for office.


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