5:26:16 The Disconnect of Vote-by-Mail

We had a primary election in Oregon a few weeks ago. Who won what--other than the Portland mayoralty and a ten-cent a gallon tax on gas--I have no idea. You see Oregon is 100% vote-by-mail. Our elections have all the drama of a tire with a slow leak.

[ballot]

I don't like vote-by-mail: It lacks the drama of building up to a Decision Day and mailing it in implicitly says as much.

Absentee ballots have a long history. But making absentee voters of all Oregonians?

Ostensibly, vote-by-mail reverses declines in voter participation. I'd venture the boost was one-time and temporary.

Another reason given for vote-by-mail is it's less expensive and simpler than organizing and overseeing all those voting precincts with many unpaid volunteers.

Anyway, an Oregon election is now people casting votes and mailing in or dropping off ballots over a period of twenty-one days. This only diffuses election interest and relevance in everyday conversation. No real Decision Day, no drama.

I won't attack vote-by-mail as more subject to fraud [though I know of one close-knit family where the dad collects the ballots from his wife and two grown children living at home, votes them, then gets the envelopes signed--a minor example, sure, but showing the beauty of the polling place where a body is attached to each ballot that's signed for].

No, where I think vote-by-mail fails is tied to a fond memory of spending one long November Tuesday--12+ hours--working at a polling place. I recall reverently observing democracy in action. Neighbors and new faces freely casting ballots, exercising choice, and with some possibly shared wisdom arriving at what might be best for everybody.

So with vote-by-mail you don't vote with neighbors. You vote alone, at home, on the bus, at McDonald's, anywhere, whenever.

We vote alone and are more apt to reach conclusions based on TV ads, targeted phone calls, personal research, but little give-and-take with other voters. Our 21-day-voting-window sees to that. So vote-by-mail has a distinctly disconnected vibe. Disconnected and dialogue-free when, of all things, an election for leaders on a dramatic Decision Day should be shared.

So in this spirit of disconnectedness, is it any wonder or more than coincidence the three states with 100% vote-by-mail [Oregon, Washington, Colorado] have [with Alaska] been the only states to vote in recreational marijuana? Dare I say, a disconnected choice for the community well-being we're supposed to share?

Image credit: google images: thedenverchannel.com


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The Cat at Light's End

Read Charlie Dickinson's story collection, The Cat at Light's End, as an ebook in these downloadable formats:

.mobi (Kindle)
.epub (most other readers)
.pdf (for PCs)

Also, a flash fiction, "Ylena Thinks Nyet," is at Cigale Literary Magazine.


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