What Was Old is New Again. We Have Better Way to Confront our Voting Challenges.
Well, it’s the morning after the election. We all need a bit of time to process what went down, so more on that in our next edition. In the meantime, let’s take a good look at how we vote in this country.
Not all that long ago, when voting machines came to be the norm in much of the country, I was on board. Digital/optical scanners and electronic tabulations were the way to go. I said over the years that those who clung to paper ballots were wrong. They were stuck in the past. They needed to embrace the future. I was wrong.
It took me awhile to admit to myself that I had chosen the wrong path. For a while, I grudgingly conceded to the idea of paper ballots as a backup. Over time I came to realize that this old-fashioned tool was the remedy we needed for how we vote.
I just saw two good discussions recently about how using mail-in paper ballots works so well. After reviewing these, I dare you to find reason not for us all to make the switch.
Take a look at a piece aired by NBC. It shows how Oregon has embraced this approach. This clip features the current Oregon Secretary of State and his predecessor. One is a Democrat, the other a Republican. Both agree this is the far superior choice. Great title: You Can’t Hack Paper.
The New York times followed with a good review, with some of the same interviewees. Read Voting at Home Will Help Save Our Democracy.
This is not some loose idea floating around. Six states, in total or in part, vote this way, with excellent results and high satisfaction rates. This includes Oregon, Washington, North Dakota, Utah, Nebraska and California. There is a 20-year track record. Turnout is high.
The NYT notes that had this system been in place nationwide in 2016, it is likely that 15 million more votes would have been cast.
The places who do this get 70-80% participation, compared to the national average of 48%. The difference in turnout is among young voters and nonpartisan voters. The financial savings are large for states and localities. Security is improved.
Any system can be adulterated, but this is about as air tight as it gets. Vote theft would be one vote at a time – not a very efficient criminal enterprise. The basic plan I envision starts with easy, seamless registration. How about it being automatic when you get a driver’s license or state ID? Registration is automatic. Provisions exist for those who have problems. They can be addressed at about any time, from accessible sites.
Your ballot automatically comes to you in the mail. You complete it and mail it back or drop it off at one of hundreds of secure drop sites. Signatures are compared, and the vote is tallied. If there is a question or challenge, the voter is contacted. There are easy options to validate or to prove fraud. There are places (physical, on line, by phone) to get help if needed, including for missing ballots.
No one spends 4 hours in a voting line in a cold rain. No obstructive or ill-informed poll worker blocks a valid vote. I know, I know. I like to vote in person, too. It feels like being in a Norman Rockwell painting. I enjoy seeing friends and neighbors there. But that has not always been the case for all Americans. Voting at a polling site is time consuming, susceptible to error or corruption, and difficult for many for a variety of reasons.
Today, it’s also useful to have a system that is hard to hack from a Russian base on the other side of the world. All in all, the devil is in the details, but it is obvious that at least for the foreseeable future, this is the way to go.
America already has one of the lowest turnout rates for voting in the world. Making it harder and subject to error or manipulation does not bring us any credit. We should all want higher turnout and greater citizen participation.
Let’s get this done. Pass me a pen, shut down my polling place. I am ready to vote from home.
If you find this blog worthy of your time and curiosity, I invite you to do two things:
(1) Join the conversation. Your voice counts here.
(2) Share the word about this post with friends and colleagues. Share a link in your emails and social media posts. Let’s grow our circle.