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November 15, 2004

Re: Abolish Election Day (The Nation 11/13/2004)

[Published in Voting by Mail in  the online edition of The Nation on 12/02/2004]

I would heartily support, as suggested in the article "Abolish Election Day" (The Nation 11/13/2004), the move to all-mail voting.

As an Oregonian who voted by mail, then travelled to New Mexico as an Election Protection poll monitor, I was able to compare the two systems up close.  I had always appreciated the ease of vote-by-mail and the resulting higher turnout (85% of registered voters for 2004!), but hadn't appreciated how much simpler it makes the rest of the system as well.

Where I was assigned in Albuquerque, New Mexico, the polling location had two precincts.  One hadn't ordered enough machines although registration had grown from 1600 to 2500, and had two hour waits all day.  In addition, many of the folks working there only do that work every two years.  It is hard to train them up effectively and introduce new concepts like provisional voting and new voting machine system to hundreds or thousands of inexperienced workers in the days before an election.  Our Election Protection team helped at least four dozen voters resolve issues, often because the precinct team wasn't skilled or was too busy to work with the citizen to ensure they could vote if they were eligible.

By moving to a mail-in election, the counting and verification work moves from hundreds or thousands of precinct-level places and poorly trained amateurs to dozens of counties.  The counties tend to have a higher level of professionalism and it is easier for all political parties to participate in oversight.

Lastly, in New Mexico they had different voting systems for different types of vote: paper for absentee, early voting machines, different machines for voting day, etc.  In Oregon, it is all the same paper ballot.

As mentioned in the article, signatures for every ballot are matched to those on file in Oregon, electronically.  If the system rejects a signature, it is examined by a person, with the usual team of overseers from political parties.  The voter is contacted to come resolve the issue. So no ID is required to vote once you've initially established citizenship.

Before this election I liked Oregon's vote-by-mail system for how easy it made it to vote.  Now, I wouldn't trade Oregon's system for anything else I've heard of because it is a better overall voting system.

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