Commentary: Voting at the Mailbox


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(Sacramento, CA)
Friday, January 27, 2006

Not only do exclusive vote-by-mail elections make sense, for some counties it may be the only way to avoid disaster. Counties have been waiting for the state to certify new voting machines for years, but so far, the state has approved only one. And it is unclear if that one manufacturer can produce and deliver enough machines for all California counties to teach their staffs and volunteers how to use them, in time for the June primary.

That leaves vote-by-mail as the only voting system that passes legal muster.

Unfortunately, the vote by mail only option has a been a tough sell in the Legislature. Republicans worry that with so much deadwood on the voter rolls, all mail voting will increase fraud. And Democrats worry that vote-by-mail will suppress minority voter turnout.

Both fears seem overblown. Oregon, the only state in the union that votes exclusively by mail, has the highest turnout of any state in the nation. And no serious problems have surfaced with California's growing legions of permanent absentee voters.

So, given fast approaching deadlines and the dearth of certified voting machines, it would be prudent for the Legislature to give counties the option of conducting exclusive vote-by-mail elections, at least for the June primary.

 

Ginger Rutland writes for the Sacramento Bee Opinion pages.