Ron Wyden pushes voting by mail nationwide

There is a story in the Oregonian about Senator Ron Wyden’s attempt to get the Federal government to fund states which choose to move to voting by mail.

I wrote a letter to the editor, shown below. We’ll see if it gets published.

October 23, 2006

To the Editor:

It is important to separate the facts from the hype regarding voting by mail. Few of the arguments for voting by mail are unique to this system of voting, and could easily be incorporated into traditional election day voting.

Secretary of State Bradbury points to signature verification as protection against fraud–but
signature checks could easily be included in any method of voting. Others like the paper trail provided by voting by mail, yet paper trails can readily be provided by many election systems.

Even Senator Ron Wyden joins in the hype. He rightly points out that voters can wait until election day to vote, but how could voters possibly know about last minute events that might change the election?

The facts are that voting by mail was adopted for convenience and for cost. By the early 1990s, large numbers of Oregonians were already voting absentee. It is more expensive to run a dual-system than it is to go fully voting by mail–which is why Washington State is likely to go fully vote by mail. Furthermore, the long and complicated ballot–this year’s election guide runs into two compelling volumes!–makes Voting by mail attractive to Oregonians.

Oregon is rightly proud of its reformist spirit. But voting by mail is one reform that, while it works well here, in a state with a well-informed and highly participative citizenry, may work far less well in other states and localities. We should not push a one-size-fits-all solution on the rest of the nation without fully understanding both the costs and the benefits.

Paul Gronke
Director, Early Voting Information Center
Reed College