Vote your conscience, by mail or in person

In another one of life’s little ironies, the pandemic brought me around full circle to voting by mail this year.

I grew up in the Pacific Northwest in the first state that made all voting into mail in voting. I cast my first ballot as an 18 year old college student via the U.S. Postal service from a few thousand miles away from home.Official Election Mail trademark authorized by US Postal Service

Voting exclusively by mail in my home state was contentious for a few years in the 1990’s, but voters overwhelmingly informed the legislature that they preferred the privacy and convenience of casting ballots remotely as of 1998.

Oh, yeah, and my birth state routinely gets double the turnout* for primaries and other less sexy elections, so enfranchisement is definitely a thing. To be clear, every type of individual achieved greater representation via mail in voting in Oregon. People of different ages, political affiliations, races, etc., all saw higher turnout in my state, and fraud has never been a significant issue.

As an Independent voter who eschews the false polarity of the American political parties, I believe in enabling the enfranchisement of every eligible citizen. When anyone acts to suppress another’s vote, I assume that group lacks natural authority or the right to wield power.

Mail in ballot envelope labeled State Election Ballot EnclosedToday, I dropped my completed ballot—and those of my spouse, mother-in-law, and father-in-law—into an official drop box outside our town’s City Hall.

I sent an email first to confirm that it was okay to submit a ballot on behalf of a family member! This year would be a terrible one in which to make a foolish logistical mistake that invalidates one’s ballot.

Turning in my envelope reminded me of how, the first time I voted, it felt a bit like I was missing something by not setting foot in a polling place. Having voted in person for a couple of decades now, I particularly missed receiving my “I Voted” sticker.I voted Election sticker - 1According to the Boston Globe, I’m not the only one who feels this way.

I will trade the fleeting pleasure of a celebratory sticker for the enduring satisfaction of taking part in a democratic election, however. I’m exceedingly grateful that I live in a state where everyone is entitled to the peace of mind granted by access to absentee ballots in the midst of a worldwide health emergency.

I voted early in hopes of alleviating congestion at the polls on election day. I voted early because there are no close races on my ballot that require further study or reflection. Now, I will hope and pray that every citizen of age in America will be given his or her own opportunity to do the same thing, and to vote his or her conscience.

Here are two great things I’ve learned about as I’ve read up on the current election:

  1. In my state of residence, I can track my absentee (mail in) ballot online. Check your state’s web site or this CNET article and see how you can do the same where you live.
  2. Teens can pre-register to vote in many states as early as age 16. By doing so, they are less likely to forget this important civic duty in the run up to an election at a busy time of life, like being away at college for the first time.

Screen shot of ballot tracking page from state web site showing state electionYour opinions matter. Your vote counts. Exercise your right to be heard!

God bless America.

USA flag - 1

* Compared to states using more traditional, in person polling places, according to this OPB article. You can see for yourself at Ballotpedia that Oregon has exceeded average voter turnout in every election since 2002.

According to the comments, however, a lot of Massholes think my feelings are stupid!

8 thoughts on “Vote your conscience, by mail or in person

  1. Paralleling the efforts to enable people to vote, we also need to crank up the efforts to educate people in basic civics and the foundations of American principles, so that their votes are more likely to push things into a beneficial direction, as opposed to amplifying whatever political advertisement resonated with them. I have no idea how to practically do this, but I do think that it’s not enough to get people out to vote – we need *informed* people to vote. I have no idea what benefit we get from droves of uninformed people voting and I can think of some negative effects. Obviously we can’t be limiting citizens’ right to do so – it’s a sacred right. But I like the frequent calls to “just get out and vote” less than “just get to the library in the time between elections and figure out what you believe and why”, which I almost never hear. Thought experiment (designed to amplify the point – obviously reality isn’t quite this extreme): suppose someone came to you and said: “here, drive this big bus to the polls – aboard it are 100 people that I guarantee have no clue about any issues or candidates – they’re just going to do whatever comes into their heads when they go in the booth.” I’m not asking whether you allow them to vote – of course you have to allow them to vote if they want to. My question is: do you make the effort to drive them there. I don’t see why you would. At best, it seems like a random element that will wash out some of what the thoughtful people are trying to do. At worst, one can imagine that there are particular political directions that might appeal to those who don’t expend any effort to figure out what’s what, and this will overall push in that direction. So I say: 1) fight to defend everyone’s right to vote and to make it a fair, accurate process least susceptible to tampering, and 2) expend more efforts to increase the number of thoughtful, informed voters we have, not just more voters.

    • I would drive that bus. Also, I would probably have the voter pamphlet in my purse and pass that around on the way.

      Perhaps more importantly, evidence from places with mail in voting suggests people feel more empowered to research issues and candidates when they vote at home in a comfortable environment. With the internet on almost everyone’s cell phone, it is easy to get to information now, and the ballot in hand provides the impetus some require.

  2. I voted by mail from Germany, as I have for the past fifty years, and this time they sent me a sticker with my absentee ballot. And thanks to the internet I could do some research on down-ballot races that I wasn’t so familiar with.

    • I am jealous that you got your sticker. I wonder, however, if you would wear it on your lapel in Germany? Would anyone recognize its significance?

      (Short detour to Google translate… Does “Ich wählte” sound correct for the translation of “I voted”? I never needed this verb before!)

      Today I’m reading that the Trump campaign is taking video surveillance of voting drop boxes in Pennsylvania, and assuming it is fraud when a voter drops more than one ballot. Again, I’m glad I checked in advance with my city’s clerk because I did bring more ballots than just my own! I had permission from my elderly in laws to drop off their ballots, and their thanks. They would not risk their health to go out where any alternative existed.

      My husband was “merely” working. Is there any difference between having his wife drop off his ballot at the city hall vs. paying the postal service to carry it the mile or so between our home and that office? I think not!

      • The best German translation would be “Ich habe gewählt.” And yes, if I wore it people in Germany would recognize its significance, since it is red, white and blue with three stars and four stripes, and the US election gets almost-daily coverage in the German media. But I don’t wear it because I seldom go out, to avoid getting infected.

    • Ah, my father in law is teaching all of his classes, but suddenly doing them online.

      Even for a computer engineer (dating way, way back before hard drives, let alone the internet), the transition from teaching in a classroom to teaching online has been challenging. It is interesting, though: he’s had offers of a lot more work from additional universities! (My father in law is the stereotypical first-wave Soviet émigré who retired, then immediately wrote a novel and started to teach at multiple colleges because he cannot be idle.) I think many educators who were near retirement age have just left the field due to COVID-19.

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