Vote-By-Mail Just Works Better

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About Noah Brand

Noah Brand is an Editor-at-Large at Good Men Project, and possibly also a cartoon character from the 1930s. His life, when it is written, will read better than it lived. He is usually found in Portland, Oregon, directly underneath a very nice hat.

Comments

  1. AnonymousDog says:

    I think there is a certain civic value in people physically, openly, going to polling places and voting.

    I think there is a value in the open, direct democracy of town meetings, but I’ve noticed that a lot of people don’t like to express opinions or vote out in the open. I have to wonder how many people who vote by mail do so out of a reluctance to openly participate in the political process.

  2. wellokaythen says:

    I agree, for the most part. (I’ve voted in Oregon and Washington. [No, not at the same time.] I just mailed one in a few days ago. Very convenient.) It’s not a panacea, of course. I think the benefits vastly outweigh the drawbacks, but there are some downsides that still have to be taken into account.

    Ballot fraud is less possible, perhaps, but some of it has just evolved into new forms. We place more power into the hands of postal workers than poll station workers. I’m not sure which is more reliable. Of course, a corrupt postal worker could probably do less damage than someone in charge of a whole ballot box.

    I hope that voting at home will give people more of a chance to be thoughtful in their voting, but I’m not sure that’s the case. Perhaps in many cases there’s the opposite effect. When I cast a ballot at home in my own cocoon, nestled in my own world, I might be less likely to think of other people, less likely to be charitable, less focused on a public good than I would if I had to go somewhere else and wait in line with people I don’t know and take part in a more collective activity. I might even be more comfortable voting for something that I’d be ashamed to admit that I support.

    Again, a lot of speculation on my part. I’m just wondering if people think differently about their place in society when they vote at home or vote at a polling station. There could be some increase in participation in some ways and a decrease in civic mindedness in other ways.

    Before vote-by-mail, every polling station I went to was staffed by very nice senior citizens, and the atmosphere was always very positive and friendly. There was more of a warm fuzzy feeling voting there, like I just did something really important and healthy and that I can be proud of, than I ever got from mailing it in. There’s a part of me that’s a little sad about that change. Small price to pay, but it’s worth a little something.

  3. wellokaythen says:

    P.S. Another side effect is that when the places I lived switched to mail-in ballots, I got a lot more political junkmail delivered to my house. The polling stations can keep ads 100 feet away, but when it’s voting by mail the parties can invade your house, and they do so more aggressively I think. I hate that parties now treat my own home as a polling station.

  4. Mail-in voting is dangerous because of the loss of the secret ballot. It’s far too easy for someone to be coerced or bribed into changing their vote if it’s possible to prove who you voted for. Perhaps Oregon doesn’t have that issue much (maybe because you have a solid Democrat lead there?), but if it was implemented across the US, it seems pretty certain to create opportunities for people who want to have more than their fair say in the democratic process.

  5. I think one thing that would worry people is verification and assurance that the vote actually got counted.

    How can one know for sure that there vote made it in, more importantly made it in time?

    It’s true that voting by mail gives you the comfort and resources to look things over and make sure you’re voting for who you want to vote for. But at the same time there’s enough of a problem with people who make their picks, drop their ballot in the box that’s 10ft away, and still have problems/questions/controversy over whether or not their vote was actually counted.

    I think people would worry that in the event of mailing, which is more than 10ft away, they would be worried about verification.

    Now mind you I am not trying to say that this would prevent mail in voting from being implemented on a nation wide basis. I’m just expressing what I think would be a common concern.

  6. wellokaythen says:

    In a tiny number of cases, you’ll have someone who voted early while alive but who is deceased before election day. Actual dead people being counted, which is a strange quirk.

    On the plus side, though, I can tell you that mailing in your ballot early makes all those campaign ads you hear later even more meaningless. They actually sound less obnoxious, and I notice them less, once I’ve mailed my ballot and it’s out of my hands.

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