Tina K. Russell

August 27, 2008

Tina waits in line for zero minutes to vote

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , , — Tina Russell @ 9:33 pm

Editorial Observer – No One Should Have to Stand in Line for 10 Hours to Vote – Editorial – NYTimes.com
Everyone complains that young people don’t vote, but consider the experience of students at Kenyon College in Ohio in the 2004 election. Officials in Knox County, Ohio, provided just two voting machines for the school’s 1,300 voters. Some students waited in line for 10 hours, and the last bleary-eyed voter did not cast a ballot until nearly 4 a.m.

That same day in Columbus, voters in black neighborhoods waited as long as four hours, often in the rain. Many voters there and in other urban areas — including Toledo and Youngstown — left their overcrowded polling places in disgust, or because they could not wait any longer, without casting a ballot. In many of Ohio’s white-majority suburbs, the lines were far shorter.

Troubles in Ohio drew the greatest attention in 2004, but that state was hardly alone. There were complaints of long lines in other states, including Colorado, Michigan and Florida, where elderly voters endured waits in blistering heat.

You know one state that didn’t go through that? Oregon.

We vote by mail. We get a chance to look over our ballots and think seriously about them. We have time to discuss it with our friends. We fill them out in our living rooms, in our coffee shops, in our libraries, and in our workplaces, voters’ pamphlets and reference material at hand. We can sleep on our choices, many times, in fact. We can send in our ballots early by mail, or drop them off any day up to the deadline at any official ballot box.

Vote-by-mail has its flaws. For instance, unscrupulous people might set out phony ballot boxes and then do whatever they want with the ballots inside; this makes it important for the government to be clear about where the official drop boxes are. (They’re often at schools and libraries. In Portland, I dropped my ballot off at the library that was mere blocks from me, and here in Eugene, I drop it off right at my university campus.) But, we’ve worked out most of the kinks. For instance, you put your ballot in a secrecy envelope and then put it in the mailing envelope (and sign the back), so that they can ensure that you voted, and separate your vote from your name so that it gets counted in secrecy.

The best part is that you can recieve your ballot and spend weeks just sampling the choices on there, reading information in newspapers and blogs, asking your friends what they think, and slowly coming to a decision. This way, hot-button, high-octane races don’t crowd out the rest of the ballot, and I’d wager people are much less likely to vote a straight ticket. Moreover, people see me when I vote, see me asking my friends, see me reading about the issues, see me interested in the debates, and all that with every voter in Oregon fosters a culture of democracy and respect. If you seriously think your vote doesn’t matter, remember that when you engage in a democracy, you naturally engage your friends. Vote by mail multiplies that effect.

All this baffles me as to why we’re the only state with statewide vote-by-mail. Voting here is no longer a hassle; it’s a pleasure. Of course, most states allow you to request an absentee ballot, which would at least allow you to fill it out at your own pace and beat the voting-day rush. It’s even better, though, when you find out that it’s time to vote because they send you a ballot in the mail before you even ask. Just register, and they send you a ballot in the mail for every election until you change your address. (Then, just register your new address.) Moreover, all your friends just got ballots in the mail, and you can talk about it over hot cocoa and coffee cake. It is, I must say, bitchin’.

So, demand vote-by-mail in your state! (All this and I never actually send my ballot in the mail; I use the drop boxes, where I can be as late as I want up until the deadline. Either way, there are no lines.) Here in Oregon, we even have bring-your-ballot “voting parties” as a house event for your favored candidate. I think that is excellent.

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