What a difference by-mail only voting has made. When I first started voting, way back when Carter was running for re-election, you could still go down to your polling place and cast your ballot.
Having just embarked on my college studies, however, like many Oroville students studying away from home our votes were cast absentee and yes, by mail. While we could have moved our registration to Spokane County or wherever we were going to school, we wanted to continue to vote in our home county. This wasn’t so much to vote for County Commissioners, Sheriff, Auditor and the like – my fellow Okanogan County citizens abroad as it were, mostly voted absentee because we wanted to vote for our respective school levies. In the mid to late seventies Oroville had trouble passing levies and was finally getting back on track. For myself I wanted to see that positive trend continue while I was away from my alma mater.
In fact, it wasn’t until after college that most of us who moved to the bigger cities to look for work in our field that we put down “permanent” addresses and started to vote in other counties.
It wasn’t until moving back home, some 29 plus years ago, that I got to enjoy casting my vote at either the high school or at the old depot. That’s when I felt the sense of community voting in public gives you. Voting by mail just doesn’t give you the same sort of feeling. Yes, you’re still doing your patriotic duty, but you don’t get to share it with your fellow community members. You miss out on those “I Voted” stickers too.
Is voting by mail all that bad? Well the process really isn’t – as long as you don’t misplace your ballot. What gets me is how long you have to wait for the official results. The general election was over three weeks ago and was set to be certified last Tuesday.
In the old days when we held a news hole on the front page for election results, you new that if a bunch of votes separated two candidates for local office, the top-vote getter was nearly guaranteed to be the winner. It was only if they were really close that any election became a nail biter as those absentee ballots like I used to cast came dribbling in, postmarked before election day, but not having arrived on same.
Today, you get the Tuesday night vote and even if the results aren’t what we used to consider close, you know you’re going to have to cool your heels, because many people wait until the last minute to mail their ballot and they’re bound to show up anywhere over the next couple of weeks. So now we have three ballot counts following the general election night count. It can be frustrating to voter and candidate alike. That second count is probably the most important as the by-mails should be in within a few days, but by the third count everything should be nailed down.
Now there is talk of how to make our voting safer – every state gets to chose what kind of election system they will have and that makes for a patchwork of systems across the country. While it seemed many states were moving to a more electronic system, maybe something online, with all the Russian hacking during the last election would anyone trust voting online at this point, I wouldn’t. To me, good old polling places are best, but the U.S. Post Office seems to do a pretty good job getting the ballots to the Auditor’s Office as well. No matter what, we need to do something to ensure all our citizens who have the legal right to vote get to do so and that their vote gets counted.