Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Vote By Mail

Jennifer Brunner, the Ohio Secretary of State, is proposing a poll duty, like jury duty, to get enough poll workers to run polling places on election days. The average age of poll workers in the US is 72 and they are not being replaced by new poll workers when they "retire" from working on Election Day, not to mention that a lot of these older pollsters are not comfortable with computerized booths and records (which we didn't use in Alameda County last time, due to the controversy about Diebold machines' reliability).

Well, no wonder the states and counties are having a hard time finding poll workers. I can personally attest that working the polls is a very long day for very little compensation. When I did it, in 1998, we had to be at our central location at 5am, and didn't get home until almost 10pm. I worked a polling place in Berkeley, not particularly near home and not in my neighborhood (where I was voting absentee). There were five or six of us at our polling place and we were between 25 and 60 or so, apparently a relatively young crowd. We earned less than $100 for our time, and our Poll Captain's wife brought us a pizza because none of us could leave the site.

One part of the opposition to Sec. Brunner's proposal is that if there were a poll duty drawn from voting registration records and drivers' licenses, like jury duty, people would just not register to vote so they could avoid being drafted to work the polls. Few enough Americans vote as it is to disincentivize voting any further.

I think the answer is to make elections "vote by mail," like they have in Oregon (and thank goodness they did that; I remember an election in which there were 44 issues or political positions open on the ballot). There have been some objections raised about voting by mail because the stamp could be equivalent to a poll tax. I wonder if it would cost much more to have the envelopes prepaid than what it costs to pay all the poll workers and transport the machines to the thousands and thousands of voting precincts across the state.

Maybe more people would vote that way, too (though I would rather have people vote who educated about the issues). Most people don't know that State law requires employers to allow a couple hours for voting, so people have to get up early, or rush home, to vote, or they don't vote, because Election Day is always on a weekday and is never a holiday, like it is in some countries. What's wrong with vote by mail? Would it make a difference?

No comments: