So, I voted. I don’t remember the exact day, but it was sometime in early October. California allows residents to sign up for permanent vote-by-mail. They get their ballot a month in advance and can then mail it back in. You can vote with all the materials in front of you, you don’t have to wait in line, you can mull over your vote for a while and hold your mail-in ballot until the final weekend if you want, or even the final day (you can turn it in to any polling place). And it works extremely well. So well, in fact, that the majority of California citizens will vote this way in 2012, as they did in past elections.
In Washington and Oregon, all voting is 100% by mail. There are collection boxes around the state for the procrastinators. It doesn’t require new technologies or expensive voting machines. Just the architecture that’s been in existence across the country since the Pony Express.
As we continue to hear stories year after year about long lines and malfunctioning voter machines and even the fever swamp stories on the right about scary black people intimidating everyone at the polls, it’s impossible to envision a better system for voting than just doing it by mail. It’s so intuitive that you would wonder why we would EVER do it another way. Those worried about security should be just as worried about voting machines that flip votes and have no verifiable paper trail. A vote by mail is a verifiable paper ballot that’s easy for recounting. Could some enterprising sort steal all the mailed ballots and flip an election? They’d have to correctly forge every signature, which in California are cross-checked against signatures on file with the voter registration or at the DMV. (We should have universal voter registration, by the way.)
I’m sure if you really thought hard about it you could come up with some foolproof way to rig the vote. That said, this method of voting has not caused one scandal in Washington and Oregon. All it’s done is increase voter participation, in the most civilized fashion possible. The voters don’t have to worry about taking off time from work or waiting in a long line. The vote-counters can parcel it out in bite-sized chunks over a month, increasing accuracy and ending the process of long nights after an election. Courtrooms don’t have to be clogged with all these ridiculous lawsuits trying to disenfranchise people.
Yes, it would be less “fun.” You wouldn’t get your “I Voted” sticker. Pundits couldn’t speculate about an October surprise, because the impact would lessen. But 31 million Americans voted before Election Day this year, and that didn’t tamp down speculation or punditry. The republic would survive having a sustainable, civilized, intuitive election system.
What’s more, the struggling but also amazing US Postal Service would be eligible for Help America Vote Act funding!