Commentary: Voters Need Choice - Don't Require Mail Ballots

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(Sacramento, CA)
Friday, July 17, 2009

Using estimates supplied by the registrar of voters, the Grand Jury concludes Sacramento County could save a million dollars per election if it converted to all mail voting.

 While cost is important, it’s not the most important consideration when it comes to voting. Access, fairness and accuracy are. Key voting blocks, among them the poor, racial minorities and the young are less likely to vote by mail. That’s because they tend to be more mobile, or don’t use the mail that much in their day to day lives.

Vote by mail systems are also vulnerable to fraud. No one can be sure who actually filled out a mailed ballot. And things get lost in the mail - even ballots.

There may be some value in increasing the use of mail-in voting, and reducing the number of precincts that counties have to set up and staff, especially during low-turn out, off-year elections. But citizens should always have the option of going to some convenient location to vote in person.

Finally, the grand jury’s recommendation is based on observations made at 20 percent of the county’s precincts during one general election. That’s a fairly thin body of information on which to recommend the complete overhaul of our elections system.


Ginger Rutland writes for The Sacramento Bee opinion pages.