Good idea – Secretary of State wants to give all voters mail-in ballots

13 Jun

Secretary of State Alex Padilla has proposed an idea that I’ve been thinking of for a long time – let’s  send all voters a ballot that they can either mail in or drop off at their polling place on or before Election Day. Let’s have fewer polling places, but keep them open for a week or so before Election Day, so people have plenty of opportunity to turn them in if they tarried over the mail box. 

They’ve  tried this idea in Colorado, and early reports indicate they’ve raised voter participation while cutting election costs.

Our last election turn out was so bad – a record low 31 percent across the state – that it lowered the threshold by which measures can qualify for the ballot in 2016 – the signatures required to put a measure on the ballot are based on the turnout in the previous election. So, get ready for a lot of reading in 2016, many of them tax proposals. 

In the Los Angeles Daily News,

Daniel Borenstein says, “Our voting system in California, like most in the nation, is predicated on an antiquated notion.  It assumes that on Election Day we walk to the neighborhood polling place — perhaps a school, a fire station, a church or nearby garage — wait in line to sign a register, step into a little canvas and wood-framed booth, and then mark our ballots.”

Those days are gone, he says, and I agree. Chico is not a small town anymore. How many of your neighbors do you know?  I’ve often wanted to take a straw poll at a public place – “Name your city councilors…name two of your city councilors…did you know Chico has a city council?”

Still, a vocal minority has always resisted mail in ballots. Some people complain they don’t get returned. Well, more of them got returned in the last election than got used at polling stations – in all of Butte County, only 15 percent of registered voters walked into a polling place to case a vote, the rest were returned by mail. 

Butte County actually had a good turnout – 54 percent, compared to 39 percent state wide. I believe County Clerk Candace  Grubbs said participation was up from last year.

Enterprise Record editor David Little has in past complained that people in Butte County request mail-ins but don’t return them by mail – who cares how they get back in, as long as they are returned on or before Election Day. He’s complained that mail-ins delay the vote count – how? They are received before or on Election Day, or tossed. How would that hold up the count  any more than the boxes received from the polling stations?

One thing I like about Padilla’s idea is having polling stations open for a week or more, staffed with people who can answer questions about these measures. I would also like to see a very aggressive ad campaign that would start as the ballots are mailed out. I’d like to see the clerk mount a few billboards at election time, besides her own campaign ads. 

I think there’s people who would like to keep turn out low. I know when we tried to change the local election to June, there were some ugly loudmouths who made it clear they wanted to do that to keep college students out of the elections. That was sad, because there were many of us who believed separating the local elections from state and federal elections would help voters focus more closely on our issues.

I think there are plenty of people who would rather keep elections quiet, keep people uninformed, so a highly self-interested minority can run our town. I also believe there are a lot of people who live outside of Chico but register at addresses within the city limits. I know the liberals outed the owner of Payless Lumber when he registered to vote at his business, but I wonder what a quick survey of the voting rolls would turn up? I can’t help but wonder if the county clerk would notice people registered at 400 West First Street, or 411 Main Street? 

2 Responses to “Good idea – Secretary of State wants to give all voters mail-in ballots”

  1. Jim June 14, 2015 at 8:22 am #

    It’s a very good idea. I’ve been voting absentee or mail in ballot for close to 15 years. I hate waiting in line, it’s so much easier to just mail it in. The other big advantage is that it’s a real paper ballot. Many people don’t trust voting machines.

    • Juanita Sumner June 14, 2015 at 9:52 am #

      Good points – I have not had a positive experience in a polling station since I was a young woman, living in the small town where I went to grammar school and high school. The nice thing was, you always saw people you hadn’t seen for a while. There was only one polling station – the fire station. Everybody knew Chief Logsdon – he had lived behind my family, my older sister and I both babysat his kids, and my younger sister was best friends with his daughter. He loved being a public figure and loved being in charge of something so sacred as voting. He made it a big social occasion, shaking hands and offering coffee. After I’d moved out of my mom’s house, she’d call to remind me – “I’ll be down there cancelling all your votes!” I saw friends from school, their parents, folks I hadn’t maybe seen for years.

      Chico is not that kind of town anymore. Despite the fact that we both grew up here and have relatives in town, my husband and I never felt any kind of community at the polling station. We were treated badly at Chico polling stations by strange old ladies who always seemed to resent the whole thing. After one woman tried to tell us the polling place was closed at 7:45 (in those days my husband was leaving for work out of town by 6:30 am and coming home as late as 9pm, and taking a day off meant no money), we decided to give it up and go with mail-in. I don’t know why anybody goes through that ridiculous rigmarole of running out before or after work, dragging kids, no matter what the weather, the dogged loyalty to that system is just beyond me. It’s time for a change.

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