Only last week, I discovered I can Vote By Mail (VBM) in Maine. It’s not called that here, but anyone for any reason can vote by “absentee ballot.” I was able to request one online and the ballots will be mailed out later this month. Other Mainers reading this can find out more here, although not all municipalities participate.
I’ve known about the idea of Vote By Mail because it has been in effect for several years in Oregon where my brother lives, and I was surprised to discover in reading some research he sent me, that 28 states have full Vote By Mail programs or, like Maine, are experimenting with it. You can find out where your state stands on this issue at votebymailproject.org.
Some people and organizations object to Vote By Mail on grounds of the possibility of fraud:
“Opponents maintain that nefarious interests could make a concerted effort to collect or steal ballots and send them in with forged signatures...Oregon officials defend the system by pointing to a case where one activist attempted to send in forged ballots to discredit the process. The individual was promptly apprehended and convicted...
“Another concern voiced by opponents is that mail balloting could result in the compromise of the sacred American tradition of the secret ballot. They envision situations where a spouse might pressure a partner to vote a specific way. Or individuals might be asked to bring their ballots to a meeting and mark them according to the will of the group.
“One study in Oregon surveyed more than a thousand voters and asked if anyone had been coerced to vote a certain way. The study identified only one voter who responded that he had been forced to vote for a specific candidate.
“Another often cited disadvantage of vote-by-mail is that it could preclude voters from knowing all the facts about candidates if events unfold close to Election Day or new information comes to light just before the election.
“And some have argued that requiring voters to pay for postage to return the ballots is the equivalent of a poll tax. One group unsuccessfully sued Oregon over the postage issue in federal court - an appeal is pending.”
These, I think, are valid arguments, but only to a point. Oregon’s experience has been that many more people vote than before the state instituted Vote By Mail, and in places like Maine in the northern tier of the U.S., there is no telling what the weather might be on election day. We could easily have a foot or more of new snow, keeping many people at home.
And for elders, some of whom cannot easily get to their polling station, this is a terrific solution.
In addition, an enormous amount of state and municipal money is saved when the number of voting machines to be purchased and maintained is reduced or eliminated. Plus, I have a lot more faith in paper ballots that are themselves the paper trail than in electronic voting. Google "voting machines" and you'll get thousands of stories of miscounts, malfunctions, failed inspections, broken machines and lost memory cards.
I had no idea until last week that Maine allows Vote By Mail and perhaps you don't know about it in your state. You can check the list here. And of course, if you are not registered to vote yet, now is the time to do that. This presidential election will determine the future direction of our country for years to come - not only our current crises on everyone's mind, but new Supreme Court appointments.
[At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Celia Jones recalls the pleasure of forbidden activities in Taking a Dip in the Hotel Pool.]