A certain civic romance remains in the idea of the polling place: You take the effort to bestir yourself to leave your dwelling and commingle among other citizens, make your decision, and exercise your civic responsibility. In public. It has understandable appeal.
Gotta say, though, that mail-in balloting works. In the state that pioneered it statewide, Oregon, it has worked beuatifully and it is immensely popular. Convenience, which is often touted as a big plus, is actually its slightest virtue. More importantly, it allows voters an extended time to think about what’s on the ballot, to discuss and to research. (Can’t remember what’s the deal with those state treasurer candidates? Fine. Put down the ballot on the kitchen table and go Google them.) It allows for better and more relaxed and more informed voting. (Note that’s no guarantee of results, just of opportunity.) It has been shown to be secure (at least the way Oregon does it); no problems of any significance reported in a decade of practice. It may be the way of the future.
It looks to be the way of Washington’s future, since this week’s decision in Snohomish County to adopt mail-in voting county wide. That makes it number 34 of 39 counties statewide to go mail.
King County appears on the verge of joining in. First a Citizens Election Oversight Committee proposed mail-in voting, with a few special exceptions (such as at-courthouse voting, allowed in Oregon too). Then, later last month, King County Executive Ron Sims asked the chief of the elections office, Dean Logan, to develop – by the end of this month – a plan for converting to all-mail voting.
If King does go that way, it’s almost ballgame-over in Washington. The King County action could come early enough that it’s early in the state legislative session. And some legislators might at that point, with the overwhelming portion of the state’s population voting by mail, simply decide to set it up that way for all 39 counties.
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