Normally, Iwould have posted this as a comment on Just Thinking's post but, given the dozen or so spam comments on that page, I figured that no one would ever find it there.
Just Thinking's piece about mail-in voting in Oregon got me thinking.
Her report about how Oregon...which had an 85% voter turn-out in 2008.... did away with the election day polling process in favor of a mail-in only system back in 1998 made me realize that we're all idiots.
We stand in line, sometimes for hours, in all kinds of weather, to exercise our franchise, and congratulate ourselves for having done our civic duty, when all we've really done is to contribute to the election day rituals that create much heat but little light.
The media loves it, because it gives them cheap shots of voters standing in line and waiting for their turn to vote, with the occasional voter machine snafus to add some additional spice to their coverage.
The pollsters love it because it gives them another chance to interview voters to determine in advance what will soon be determined by the voters
Like I said, we're idiots.
We're merely unpaid extras, window dressing for the head shots of the talkimg heads blathering platitudes about an election that is still in process.
We're idiots because every single one of us has the option of voting by mail...just like Oregon does...right now, and have had that ability for years.
It's called the absentee voter system, and it's available to every one of us.
In 2008, it took me three hours to cast my ballot. It was a typically hot South Florida day, and the senior citizens were out in force, braving the heat to cast their votes.
At the time, I felt good about myself for making the effort to vote...but, now, I realize that I was just another idiot on the idiot line.
This year, remembering that ordeal, we decided to take advantage of Florida's early voting process. It took us 40 minutes to exercise our franchise this way, which is a lot better than three hours, but it only took me five minutes to drop off my mother's absentee ballot at the Election Commission office in Delray Beach. It wouldn't have taken me even that long if I had actually mailed the ballot on time...but it would have cost me $1.22 to mail the oversized envelope.
Logic suggests that early voters are probably more ideologically committed to one party or the other, while the procrastinators are more likely to be people who are still on the fence, unable to make a decision on one or more offices, and waiting for some inspiration to strike.
Casting votes is one thing. Counting them is quite another.
Some commentators have suggested that we need to computerize the voting process to allow citizens to vote from their home computers. Others have suggested dial-in voting, ATM voting, and other, even more bizarre composites...but there's really no substitute for an actual paper ballot on which voters actually write their choices.
Some years ago, the separate states started experimenting with various computerized polling systems, each of which had the same drawback: they aren't tamper-proof. Some used punch cards...with the unfortunate results that gave us the first contested presidential election in American history. Others used touch screens, which turned out to be even less reliable than the notorious punch cards.
There's just no substitute for a paper and ink ballot system, which gives election officials a paper trail to verify the results the computers give us.
Palm Beach County now uses a very efficient polling system in which paper ballots are marked and fed through an optical character reader that compiles the votes. The collection of paper ballots provides an important check and balance against computer gliches and outright machine tampering frauds.
The Florida absentee-voting system uses the same exact paper ballots, which can be mailed or dropped off at local Election Commission offices.
The Pew Foundation just released a survey indicating that 23% of the votes cast this year were cast during the early voting process, which includes absentee ballots.
That trend is likely to continue as more and more Americans realize that, the sooner you vote, the sooner those annoying robotic phone calls will end.
We now have a mechanism for evaluating the intelligence of the American voter.
I have no way of proving this, but I think that early voters are smarter voters.
Maybe their votes should count twice.