Elections Are Done For Me

I Think I Voted

Forty Percent of California voters are “permanent absentee” voters. Oregon runs entirely by mail-in votes. Other US states have some sort of mail-in or absentee status that people can assign themselves to.

For those people, including me, elections are a slice of time that ends on election day. This isn’t new, until relatively recently, it all worked that way. You couldn’t expect everyone to all be in town on that one day. It is only urbanization that allows us to have elections be an event rather than a process. I sat down last night and waded through the whole mass of offices, measures, and initiatives. I have now completed my civic duty.

This is probably a good idea, as many of the issues with voting and counting votes and securing them have in their model that it has to be done on one day, and as quickly as possible after the polls close. It improves security and accountability to allow and encourage people to vote over an interval of a few weeks.

6 thoughts on “Elections Are Done For Me”

  1. I think a major problem with absentee voting is that it greatly increases chances of coercion. This can be explicit, or tied to social structures: a church decides to have an “early voting day” where everyone comes in and fills out their secret ballot together over a nice covered dish. Inside the family, it’s even easier to envision this sort of thing.
    of course, like most voting fraud, it’s impossible to measure this sort of thing, but Ben Adida talks a fair bit about the importance of keeping the secret ballot truly secret.

  2. Maybe its because I live in Minnesota but voting has always been a social activity. Church groups do vote together. Families to do. People make a day out of it (personally I think it should be a federal holiday) Assuming I am in town i’ll do what i do every two years – walk down to the park clubhouse, chat with my neighbors for a bit – color in some lines, put my ballot in the tabulator and go have a beer with those same folks.
    Maybe thats why Minnesota has one of the highest (if not the highest) voter turnouts in the country.

  3. Allan: Regardless of who sits down to chat with you before or after the casting of a ballot, it is still a secret ballot. And many people tend to be friends with people who think as they do and therefore vote for teh same candidates. One advantage to the mailin ballot is that police cannot set up roadblocks (as they did in Florida) to prevent people from getting to the polls, or moving the site of the polling place on the day of the election, or having machines with no paper trail when you vote electronically. Sad to say, there is no shortage of voter intimidation to be found in our country.
    I’d be less worried about the people in your church than I am about the government.

  4. As a UK citizen, I have some advice for the US electoral process:
    Stop treating it as an industrial automation project.
    The key point is to accurately capture the citizens’ intent, NOT to declare a winner that night. In fact, you have two months between election day and inauguration: you have time to get it right.
    Hand counting is the fairest, most open method of ensuring that the count is accurate.

  5. Social activities surrounding the polling process are fine. Hell, let’s make it a national holiday! I am worried about removing the ballot marking process from the controlled environment of a polling station. A system that enables some one other than the voter to see a marked ballot with a high degree of confidence that the ballot will be cast as marked is vulnerable to vote selling and coercion.
    Road blocks are despicable, but harder to hide.
    I’m worried about the husband and wife who have different preferences but can’t express them because of some explicit or implicit situation. Moreover, an insistence on keeping one’s ballot secret in a world with widespread non-secret voting creates suspicion (just as encryption raises flags if no one else is doing it).
    I don’t want to keep anyone from voting, but if we take ballots out of a *relatively* secure environment with adversarial election officers, we have to rely on social mores to encourage people to keep their ballots secret. A system to allow people to repudiate a coerced vote and re-cast it would be nice, but well beyond current capacity.
    I’m less worried about wide-spread vote buying because I would argue that it’s hard hard to do discretely on a large scale.

  6. Social aspects of voting are NOT alright…its supposed to be a secret ballot…and for a VERY VERY good reason…freedom to choose without “social pressure”

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