Thursday, October 28, 2010


A FaceBook friend sent me a message this morning saying, "Remember to vote Lockwood, I'm pretty sure you don't need reminding, but I'm doing it anyway!" The above vidclip (from BlueOregon) is kind of trite, to my taste, but it does highlight an interesting bit of information: Oregonians vote at a higher rate than any other state- the figure given here is 84.9%. (I suspect that's the turnout for the '08 election, not an average.) But the clip was posted with the cute double-entendre "More Oregonians do it than in just about any other state. We do it at home, in private; we do it public, with our friends; we even do it at school and at work." What we do in all those various settings and combinations is, of course, vote.

We have a unique vote-by-mail system that I've discussed before- the ballots are sent out about two weeks before election day- so your address on your registration MUST be current- the ballot will not be forwarded to a new address. Voters thus do not need to show up and wait in line in crappy weather, they can do it at home, at school, etc, at a day, time and place that's convenient to them. It's traditional in my case to do it at the coffee shop. The completed ballot is placed in a "secrecy envelope," which is then sealed, then that package is placed in an authentication envelope, which the voter then signs and seals.  The signature serves two purposes: first, it serves as a statement that the voter affirms this is his/her vote, and that no one has unduly pressured or forced them to vote in a manner against their wishes (doing so is a major crime). Second, when the ballot gets to the county office, the signature is compared to the voter's signature on file, confirming that the registered voter is actually the one that completed the process. The outer envelope is then removed, and the inner envelope is taken to a different room before being opened and the ballot counted.  Thus the voter's identity is separated from the ballot before the ballot is seen.

The ballot can then be mailed to the pre-marked address or dropped in official drop boxes at public locations like libraries and post offices by 8:00 PM election day. Last I read, something like 15-20% of registered Oregonians have already voted. I generally get mine into the OSU Library drop box Monday afternoon. Mailed ballots should be sent no later than Fri. or Sat. before the election- arrival at the county offices, not postmark, must be by 8:00 PM of election day.

Long and short, I actually feel a little bad I can't take more pride in not having missed a major election since 1992 (I was moving, and without a vehicle, and starting a new job, I just didn't get the paperwork done for an absentee ballot). Oregon makes voting so convenient and easy that I can't really feel all that great about actually doing it. But given the rampant concerns with either fraud or lack of opportunity/time/access to voting facilities, it does seem like the other 49 states might want to take a look at Oregon's system.  Many of us were uncertain about it when it was instituted, but it makes it less of a hassle to vote than we could have imagined, and I haven't met anyone in the last decade who doesn't like it.

So yes, I will vote. And whatever weaknesses or strengths your state's system has, you should too.

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