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OpEdNews Op Eds    H2'ed 12/23/19

Make Our Democracy Stronger; Learn from the Capitalists and the Pioneer West

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Americans can't stand long lines. We don't even enjoy standing in lines that move fairly quickly.

Our capitalist business class gets it. Walmart and Target deliver merchandise to our homes. They hire employees to run stuff out to our cars.
Amazon and FedEx and Grubhub bring what we want to where we live.

It is time the lumbering political class learns from the capitalists. Busy folk working at least a job or two; juggling caring for elderly parents, children and grand children shouldn't have to waste time to participate in our democracy. It's time to switch to the capitalist model of convenience. It's time election officials switch to voting at home instead of forcing us to fight rain and snow and unpredictable weather and lines that zig and zag.

Let's get rid of the long lines, the slowly moving lines, the polling stations that waste our precious time. We shouldn't have to deal with poll workers who are overworked or poorly trained, machines that break down or disputes about whether we have a right to vote or must cast a provisional ballot that may or may not be counted.

Three pioneer states in the West already ride this wagon train to success. They mail paper ballots to every registered voter. Oregon, Washington state and Colorado bring voting to the people a few weeks before votes are counted. That gives citizens time to read the ballot, do their research and return the paper evidence of their vote in-person or by mail. Colorado also opens countywide polling centers where citizens can deliver their ballot or vote at the center.

It works. Voter participation increases, and sometimes shames states that live in the electoral past. Equally satisfying, it saves money to junk an outdated system that discourages participation. click here

Here is some evidence: "It's no secret that American democracy is in a bad way. In the last midterm elections, only about 37 percent of eligible adults voted the worst showing since World War II," write Gilad Edelman and Paul Glastris in a 2018 Washington Post Op Ed.

They note that many Democrats and Republicans are skeptical of change. "So last summer, we commissioned a study by the political research firm Pantheon Analytics, using data from Colorado's 2014 election for more than 2.8 million registered voters. The study found that vote at home increased overall turnout by 3.3 percent, and by even more among young and low-propensity voters. The implication is clear: Anyone who cares about improving turnout should make expanding vote at home a top priority." click here

Washington state also likes what it sees. click here

A November 2018 editorial in the Seattle Times says, "Other states should consider following the lead of Washington, Oregon and Colorado and move to universal mailed ballots. The convenience and access provided by this approach far outweighs concerns about security and fraud, which haven't materialized after decades of experience."

The paper continues, "Washington Secretary of State Kim Wyman should help persuade them. Wyman is an articulate defender of voting by mail, which has worked well under her watch... She's also a Republican, giving her credibility with GOP-led states needing to fix problematic election systems. 'In the modern era, we shouldn't be having lines around the block,' Wyman told this editorial board."

Not surprisingly, no system is perfect. In fact, some people in Florida frowned on voting-at-home mail-in ballots. They did this after learning about a 2018 study by Daniel Smith, a University of Florida political science professor, who found that 1 out of 100 mail-in ballots were not counted in the 2012 and 2016 elections. Younger voters and minority voters had their ballots rejected more than white voters and older voters. Florida offers people a three-headed voting option monster; 1/3 vote at home by mail-in ballot; 1/3 vote at early voting locations and 1/3 vote at polling stations on election day. click here

Fortunately, Howard Simon, the executive director of the Florida ACLU at the time, took a measured approach. In a press release, he said, "While we want to encourage Floridians to use every form of voting, including casting a ballot by mail, we also need to urge voters to take the steps to track their mail ballot and, if there is a problem with the voter's signature, to use the cure process to ensure that their vote is counted."

Last winter, state election officials in Colorado and Oregon were kind enough to tell me some ways they "cure" signature problems when a ballot signature does not match a signature on file.

A few strategies stood out. In Colorado, disputed signatures go through more than one level of review. At one point, people from two different parties review the signature in question. The signature passes muster if only one person reviewing the signature says it matches signatures on file.

That leads me to another good thing Colorado does. Officials realize signatures change over time, so officials store multiple signatures provided over the years. In some counties, election officials run the ballot through a machine that can check the signature on the ballot with signatures in the data base.

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Steve Schneider lives in Florida. He writes articles for Humor Times, Democracy Chronicles, The Satirist and OpEd News.

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