By the time I came of voting age, clerk’s offices were still using those cubicles, but not for long. I was pretty excited the first time I entered one to vote. But not too long later the curtains came down because a newer method of voting was not likely to reveal one’s selections to someone standing nearby. We started sticking cards in machines and punching holes next to the candidates we selected. That method didn’t require a shroud, but something about the honor and importance of voting diminished a bit when we started using punch cards.
Other habits were changing. Fewer people seemed to be going to the polls. Once-busy precinct places rarely had lines of people waiting to vote. Election volunteers seemed bored by having to sit at their nearly empty precincts all day and reminisce about when the voters used to turn out for elections.
Grand County’s first attempt to vote a whole new way – by mail – seems a drastic but common sense approach to the changing habits of people. Grand County is one of a handful of Utah counties that has started using the vote-by-mail system, and the initial results seem to indicate that there is greater participation in the elections.
This summer’s primary election is a runoff vote between three candidates vying for Grand County Council. That race involves voters from only two county precincts, which makes the trial run a bit simpler than if it were a general election involving everyone in the county.
What is encouraging is that voter participation seems to be stimulated by the mail-in voting. Let’s face it – people are doing more and more activities from the comforts of their homes. Activities such as shopping, reading and entertainment are done via the Internet and phone, and more and more people are working from home.
It’s a bit sad to think that we may never again gather at the polls to cast our ballots, as we have done for decades and decades. But it seems to be the wave of the future that fits people’s ways and achieves greater voter turnout.
Some speculate that vote-by-mail will favor liberal voters. Who knows. It still offers every registered voter the opportunity to cast a ballot. I do find it interesting that in recent years we have had to present our driver’s licenses to prove our identities when we voted. Then once we voted we had to put our own ballot in the box; no one else could touch it. Those rituals will go out the window.
The mail-in system will have no way to determine if the person marking the ballot is the person for which the ballot was intended. Some voter fraud could happen, but it seems to be a possibility no matter how an election is run. And we’ve been doing it this way with absentee ballots for a long time.
The post office can certainly use the increased business of mailing ballots back and forth, what with their revenues down as people communicate by computer and other high-tech methods. But the times are changing, and it may not be too long until we all vote from our smart phones, not even having to mail in a paper ballot. That’s when I’ll get concerned. Until then, I’m happy to mail my ballot to the clerk.