I just finished marking my ballot for a special election, put it in an envelope, and laid it aside to be dropped off at a ballot drop-box the next time I go to town. Finished in less than 15 minutes, and definitely pleased that the whole process was so simple and easy.
Had we still been voting using the old method, we would have waited until May 19th to head for our polling station, which was located in a school a few miles from our home. Being an elementary school, there were only enough parking spaces to accommodate the teachers and a few other adults who worked at the school, so we would probably have had to park on down the street from the school and then walk back across the playground to the gymnasium door to reach the room where we voted.
It wasn’t difficult to vote the old way-just time consuming. We might have to stand in line for a few minutes and then wait while the clerk checked our signatures and directed us to a voting booth, but, all in all, it wasn’t unpleasant. It’s just a lot easier to do it at home.
With vote-by-mail, we receive an envelope with our ballot in it several weeks before Election Day. This gives us a chance to look over the list of candidates running for office and the measures we will be voting for or against. Receiving the ballot so far in advance gives us a chance to do a little research if we aren’t familiar with some of the names that appear on the ballot, or the ramifications of a particular measure.
We usually wait until a day or two before the actual deadline for voting in case circumstances change our minds on one or more issues. Then we carefully mark our ballots, seal them in a security envelope-which is also provided with the ballots-and then seal them again into a mailing envelope which we sign on the outside, and the ballots are finished. They can be mailed if we send them in time to beat the deadline, which is always 8 p.m. on Election Day, or we can drop them in one of several drop boxes located around town for our convenience. No stamp is required if we use the drop box, and the boxes are like mail boxes, from which the contents are collected frequently to avoid theft. The ballots are held in a secure place until time for the counting arrives.
The biggest argument we hear against Oregon’s method of voting is that it is subject to fraud.
Since no case of fraud has ever been proven in our state, I would say that it is probably less susceptible to fraud than some of the horror stories we hear of rampant fraud taking place at the polls in other states. However, I can’t deny that there are occasions in our system where fraud could easily take place.
Each envelope mailed in has the voter’s signature on it. There are numerous people employed in our election department who compare these signatures with each voter’s signature in the voter registration book for that district. True, a signature can be forged, but an impostor could show up at a regular polling place and forge your signature, too, so I don’t think fraud by forgery is going to become a common event.
There is also a chance that, since the voter does not have to appear at a polling place in Oregon, someone whose mental capacity has diminished could end up casting a vote when they don’t understand any of the issues on the ballot. (Unfortunately, that probably happens in regular polling places, too.)
The two possibilities of fraud I mentioned above may well occur, but I think those occurrences would be so rare that they would make very little difference in the final outcome of most elections.
The problem that does cause me some concern in the vote-by-mail system is the possibility of intimidation by family members or acquaintances. An overbearing husband or wife could make life miserable for a mate who does not vote according to his or her wishes. A neighbor might make disparaging remarks about a person’s voting choices and cause the voter to change his mind and go along with the other person’s view. Some elderly people are dependent on their children for a place to live or physical care, and are afraid to go against their recommendations on how to vote.
Can we do anything about the fact that some voter fraud may occur? Probably not, especially since most people in Oregon are totally happy with the way the program works, and because there is obvious fraud going on in other states using different systems of voting.
Probably, the best thing we can do is to keep our eyes open to spot and report obvious fraud no matter where it takes place, and to make doubly sure it isn’t happening in our own family or circle of friends.
For a more complete report on how voting by mail in Oregon works, check out the link to Jeff Musall’s, Voting in Oregon: Calm, Collected and Done Right that is included with this article.