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With Problems at the Polls, Vote by Mail Emerges as Big Election Day Winner
Matt Singer on November 8, 2006 - 1:15pm
The Vote By Mail Project and the Progressive States Network call for the expansion of Vote By Mail to remedy rampant polling place problems. On Election Day 2006, voters in Colorado, Mississippi, Ohio, Florida, and elsewhere around the country often faced long lines, errant voting machines, and poorly trained poll workers -- issues causing delays and frustration among those attempting to cast ballots in this important mid-term election. Not so for voters in places like Oregon and most of Washington state where, under Vote By Mail, most votes had already been cast, and elections officials prepared for an orderly and non-controversial count of the ballots this evening. “What we are seeing, in Denver and elsewhere, is the breakdown of a system that had already faced a crisis in terms of public confidence,”? says Joel Barkin, Executive Director of the Progressive States Network. “This latest round of polling place problems simply underlines what elections officials in states like Oregon, Washington, California, Idaho and elsewhere have been telling us, that Vote By Mail elections are more secure, easier to administrate, and better for democracy than the mess we are seeing today.”? This year, County Clerks in Idaho became the latest to add their voice to the growing call among elections officials for their states to consider moving to Vote By Mail elections. http://www.idahovotesbymail.com/. Previously, California’s Registrars called publicly for their state to implement Vote By Mail. County Clerks in both Oregon and Washington, as well as county officials in Colorado have also voiced their preference for what has proven to be a more secure, more transparent, less expensive and more highly participatory way to conduct elections. Adam J. Smith, Executive Director of the Vote By Mail Project, says that Vote By Mail is increasingly seen as an answer to the rampant problems plaguing American elections. “Since Oregon moved to Vote By Mail, elections there have gone off without a hitch. Oregon’s voter turnout is routinely at or near the top of the list among states without same-day registration, re-counts of the paper ballots can be conducted by hand, and voters overwhelmingly prefer Vote By Mail to polling place elections. A 2003 study by Priscilla Southwell of the University of Oregon found that five years after its implementation, nearly 81% of Oregon voters preferred vote by mail. Kristen Thomson, People For the American Way Colorado State Coordinator, said "People were waiting for three hours and more to vote all across Denver, and some people still hadn't gotten in to vote by 9:30 pm. We'll never know how many voters turned away in frustration. This would never happen under Vote By Mail. States and localities across the country are gaining experience with Vote By Mail. Oregon ”“ Full Vote By Mail Elections. Washington ”“ 34 of 39 counties run their elections entirely by mail. Colorado ”“ More than half of Colorado counties ran their 2005 elections entirely by mail. Arizona ”“ Allows cities choose to conduct their elections by mail. California ”“ Allows citizens to choose to register as permanent absentee voters. It is expected that half of all ballots cast in the 2006 election in California will come from voters who have chosen to Vote By Mail. Montana - Allows citizens to choose to register as permanent absentee voters.