Tuesday, November 20, 2012

If it ain't actually broke.......

In the aftermath of elections in Washington state, one phenomenon is as predictable as concession speeches and victory celebrations: There will be demands to change the law that allows the counting of mail ballots so long as they are postmarked by election day.
This year is no different, with newspaper editorials and op-eds calling for Washington to adopt the practice of Oregon -- the only other state with all-mail voting -- where ballots must be delivered to elections officials by election day to be counted.

The impetus for the demands is the delay of days or weeks in determining the outcome in close contests, due to processing of late-arriving ballots. That leaves candidates and politics junkies – categories which probably comprise most readers of The Advance – frustrated.

While all-mail voting eliminates the kind of election-day snafus that afflicted Florida on Nov. 6, it generally requires more time for verification and tabulating of the ballots.

So, critics say, why not speed things up by adopting the Oregon-like election-day deadline? Washington Secretary of State Sam Reed has joined the makes-perfect-sense chorus, pushing bills in the Legislature to effect the change.

Except that the case Reed and others make might not be quite so clear-cut. So argues David “Goldy” Goldstein of The Stranger in Seattle, who says that changing the deadline would do little to reduce the delays.

The problem, Goldstein says, is not that ballots arrive late – even in Washington, the overwhelming majority are delivered by the day after the election – but that elections officials can’t keep up with processing the ballots as they come in.

For Goldstein, the minimal reward from adopting the Oregon approach is outweighed by the risk: that some voters will be disenfranchised if their ballots are delayed in the mail through no fault of their own, or if they aren’t roused to vote by anything other than the excitement of election day itself. Besides, he says, most “ordinary” voters aren’t bothered by what we’ve got now.

To read this story in Spanish, click here.