Aristotle saw two ways of maintaining societies with great wealth discrepancies: either reduce the inequality or reduce democracy. By and large he thought reducing inequality and increasing participation (except, of course, for the poor, women and slaves) was the better way to go, an idea assumed by most political theorists including de Tocqueville, Adam Smith, and even Thomas Jefferson among others. That is, until our own Founders had to put it to the test. In drafting the Constitution James Madison balked on pure Democracy and created a representative Republic instead, limiting democracy to the wealthy landowners of the time. We may have expanded the voting franchise beyond Madison’s dreams, but our society still faces the fundamental tensions now increasing, as inequality and declining democracy both roll on unchecked.
How can we the people affect any change, much less long-term desirable change, as we limp along with a failed election system for an ill-informed electorate that can’t take the time required to vote? Tackling an ill-informed electorate is one thing, but if… IF our goal is to increase democracy, then the most basic challenges involve getting citizens to the polls and securely and verifiably counting their votes. This election has brought charges of an untrustworthy electoral system on a national basis, but not in Oregon! We’ve had vote-by-mail since the original experiments in the 1980s, and now we’re pioneering automatic voter registration too. Oregonians seem to understand; getting people to vote and then accurately accounting for that vote is key to strong Democracy. A national-level vote-by-mail election process could help revitalize our democracy.
The immediate benefits of a national vote-by-mail system would be far reaching. Millions of dollars and man hours saved; secure vote and tabulation, higher voter participation. Other benefits would follow; citizens who see their vote treated with respect would be more confident their vote has value, so would begin to value it more highly themselves and may be motivated to become the better educated and involved electorate we need. After voting by mail for years I can no longer imagine the lost income and joy of standing in line for hours to exercise my rights and duties as a citizen. Waiting is one problem, but then there’s the difficulty of trying to actually cast an informed vote in a booth while other people wait impatiently behind me. There’s no ability to reality-check with friends, no internet to do research for informed decisions, and no time to ponder difficult choices. What does the language of this bill actually mean, or who is this candidate I’ve never heard of? I know how tough it would be for me to prepare all my votes in advance, and I can only imagine the numbers of voters who have no clue who and what is on the ballot when they finally enter the booth.
It really astounded me to see the cadre of mainstream political insiders from both parties rush to defend the integrity of our current broken electoral system from claims of a rigged election. Who could defend this hodgepodge mess we have now? What power keeps the superior method of vote-by-mail from spreading to other states? Who gains by maintaining a broken election system and a counting process that uses a mix of machine types and tabulators many of which are far from secure and can’t be audited when the need arises? In the end it doesn’t matter where the opposition to a trustworthy and inclusive voting system comes from. In a democracy, any force working to corrupt the voting process is an enemy of every citizen.
Our current broken election system is not sustainable. We need a secure, verifiable, uniform, nation-wide system, not one that requires voters to waste an entire day waiting before rushing through the booth to cast a possibly ill-considered vote, which then can’t be verified once it’s cast. We face a staggering array of issues threatening our nation and even our world… Climate Change, the decline of the Middle Class, Citizens United and the rise of the Corporatocracy, endless war, health care, police abuse, prisons for profit, ineffective education, corrupt government… need I go on? All these issues need to be addressed and addressed now, and fighting to build an election system we can all trust is a first step to affect change.
Take Care and Make a Great Day!
Vote By Mail on Fairvote.org
Electoral College Is ‘Vestige’ Of Slavery, Say Some Constitutional Scholars, Kamala Kelkar on PBS Newshour, Nov 2016
Wyden Introduces National Vote By Mail Act, Senator Ron Wyden Website, Nov 2016
Why Hasn’t Voting By Mail Spread? Paul Taylor on the Governing Magazine website
Vote From Home, Save Your Country by Phil Keisling in Washington Monthly, Jan 2016