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Sitting here in Oregon, we can reasonably think: “Well, we don’t have to put up with that kind of garbage. We can vote by mail.”

Yeah, we can feel superior over this one, after watching the reports yesterday of long election lines and voting chaos in the primary contests in Arizona, Utah and Idaho.

Arizona saw long lines to vote in its primary elections for both parties. Idaho saw long lines to vote in its Democratic caucuses (though there was the excuse that turnout was unusually heavy, which is a good thing). Utah had more of the same, and when it tried Internet voting ran into big snarls.

Utah, at least, was making an effort to make voting easier for voters, which ought to be object all over the place. Oregon really does make it almost as simple as it can be, allowing for essentially automatic registration – if you’re eligible, you’re likely registered in Oregon – and mail-in voting, which has worked smoothly for more than two decades. Total time in Oregon to cast a ballot is what it takes to mark the paper – a minute or two – and however much time you spend researching your choices.

As was widely noted on Twitter yesterday, you can order a pizza, shift funds around your bank account, and do much more these days instantly – but in too many places, voting means standing in lines.

And the caucus system is worst.

It’s not just the matter of having to spend hours to get your vote registered, and sometimes (as in some places in Idaho) long waits even to get inside the caucus room. It’s also the requirement that you physically be in a specific place at a specific time. Some people can’t do that. They may be working then. They may be sick. One of the lead writers at the national liberal blog Daily Kos, Joan McCarter, lives in Boise, and couldn’t cast her vote at the Idaho caucus because work required her to be out of town at the time. No absentee ballots for caucuses.

The caucuses still exist around the country in large part because the national parties like to have some assurance that just members of the party, and not others, are participating. But the assurances many states theoretically provide often are hollow. And the whole premise makes little sense in this country anyway, in a political system where two parties have an effective monopoly on political offices. I’ll say it here: Anyone ought to be able to participate in those primary selections (one or the other – make a choice) without declaring fealty to the party. To argue otherwise is to argue that the D and R parties are just the same as any other voluntary association group, instead of being the de facto joint ruling organizations of this country.

Which takes us off in a more long-winded, and farther-reaching, direction. But shorter term: Can’t we find better ways to let people cast their votes? It can be done. Oregon has.

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