Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Oh surely, I'm but a single bot, alone, as it were, in the vast universe thing. Maybe I can change the world.

Today's the big day in Oregon. I'm heading out to the Oregon City office of the Obama campaign after work to make calls for last minute voters.

I've been meaning to do a thing on vote by mail process since it's pretty unique to Oregon. I think I have a pretty good take on VBM since I was strongly against it before it was implemented but have come around to supporting the concept.


We actually receive our ballots a couple of weeks before the election date. Included with the ballot are two envelopes - a privacy envelope and a return envelope.

The ballots are bubble-style where you fill in your choice by pen. For write ins there are bubbles marked "write in" with a line to write in your choice.

After we have completed our ballots we stick it in the privacy envelope and seal it. We then stick that envelope in the return envelope and sign the validation signature on the front of that envelope. Above the signature is the following text-

Voter's Statement
I am the person to whom this ballot was issued.
I am legally qualified to vote in the county that issued this ballot.
This is the only ballot I have voted in this election.
I still live at the address where I am registered to vote.

The ballots can either be mailed or dropped off at several collection points located around the state on election day.

Ballot Processing

The ballots are collected at the local county election's office and the signature verified against our registration on file. If there is a problem (no signature) they will contact you. They are then sorted into precinct and the secrecy envelope removed but not opened.

Beginning five days before the election the privacy envelopes are opened and the ballots prepared for counting but they do not begin counting until election day. This process is not any faster than traditional voting. Every step of the process is open to the public.

What I think of the whole thing

As I mentioned I was really against VBM when it was first proposed by the Secretary of State. There were a couple of reasons for this.

The first is that I thought there would be too much opportunity to mess with ballots. It seemed like it was a prescription for fraud.

The other reason was that I just love going down to my local poll and voting. I'm not a religious guy but this was sort of like my religion. Vote by mail seemed like it would make voting more like paying the bills.

With regard to fraud I was completely wrong. What really opened my eyes was all the focus on our election process nationally in 2000 and 2004. In Oregon there is little difference in the ballots between different counties and municipalities. Our ballots are uniform other than the names on the ballot.

With regards to my second concern I'd be lying if I said I didn't miss going down to the polls and talking to the volunteers and going through that shared sacrament of voting. I had been looking forward to taking my kids down there to watch me vote when they got old enough to teach them the importance of voting.

On the other hand we sit down with our kids and go through the ballots and discuss the issues with them when we vote. I can say without question this has made me a better voter because I don't want to be uniformed when the kids have questions. This means that there's no blowing off the downballot candidates for county board, etc. My kids are going to ask me WHY I'm voting for that person and "because they were first on the list" doesn't cut it.

Pros and Cons of VBM


  • Integrity and uniformity to process (no equal protection issue ala Bush v. Gore.)

  • Less chance for cheating.

  • More informed voters.

  • Better turnout.

  • As Swinebread pointed out you can vote naked. Although knowing Swinebread I would guess he wouldn't let traditional voting stop him from that luxury.


  • No sense of community.

  • Ballots can be picked-up by third party (potential weakness to system.)

  • Paying postage to mail ballot seems a little "poll tax-ish."


Don Snabulus said...

I would add to your Pros that Oregon VBM is well conceived and executed. Things run uniformly and the same way each time. A lot of the BS that happens in other states with poorly made insecure electronic equipment, voter suppression tricks, and phony database voter nullification and other (quite frankly GOP) tricks that are routine in Florida, Ohio, and such places are a lot harder to pull off here.

Of course, it might just be the quality of our people. :)

Dean Wormer said...


Great points.

What really sold me about VBM is reading about all of the other crap you mention happening in other states. VBM doesn't make that stuff impossible but it does make it much harder to implement in Oregon.

Plus the entire Bush v. Gore decision was predicated on the idea that there was no way to do a fair recount in Florida because all the counties and precincts voted differently using different technologies so Bush's civil rights would be violated. As a solution they violated the civil rights of the tens of millions of Americans that voted for Gore.

VBM cuts the legs out from under that argument.

Arkonbey said...

You have to pay your own postage? what's up with that?

Of course, I have to pay my own gasoline to get to my polling place (I should walk, as it's only 4 miles away. I just always forget to take election day off)

Dean Wormer said...


Gas, etc. costs you. Don't forget the state incurs the cost of mailing out the ballots initially. This is actually a more expensive way of running elections in some aspects.

But I think it's better. :-)

Overdroid said...

I'm all for convenience. Bring on the online voting! Hell, surgically implant a neural shunt so I can vote by thought!

Life As I Know It Now said...

You have five days to research any candidate that escaped your notice and then decide how you will vote and why--I can only say I am jealous. We get the dubious honor of voting on Diebold machines so I always wonder if my vote will even be counted at all. Many people here have started to vote absentee ballad for that reason alone.

ladybug said...

I hated polling..."voting in person", there were always grumpy old people, it was in a weird inconvenient place, and you could only do it on election day.

When you

a) don't have a car

b) work weird jobs w/weird hours


c) can't figure out where your "district polling area" is...which not necessarily the city, county or anyplace remotely logically connected to the place you live

It's a PAIN in the A$$.

Vote by mail was the best thing that ever happened.

Randal Graves said...

We had paper ballots in our primaries in our county, but given the fact that Diebold will probably be back in November, I think by mail is the way to go.

Dean Wormer said...


Voting by neural shunt is discrimantory towards Republicans.

Nothing to connect the shunt to so they're left out of voting.


We have longer than that. We have at least two weeks to vote. On top of that the state sends out a huge (sometimes two volumes) voter's pamphlet with information on candidates, initiatives etc. to every registered voter. It's pretty cool.


True, but I liked getting an "I voted" sticker.


That's what I'm thinking. Mail is the only solution short of standardizing voting nationally and making election day a national holiday.

Dr. Zaius said...

Postage is nothing like a poll tax. It's frickin' postage, ferchrisakes!

Dean Wormer said...


Agreed. But you still are having to pay to vote in a sense. Even if it's just a few cents.

Swinebread said...

I’ve always loved voting by mail. In fact, I was an absentee voter long before it became the only way to vote in the state of Oregon. I hate standing in line and I hate going “booth” to vote. I wanna do my own thing and I wanna take my time.

Plus it’s more safe and secure.

Dean Wormer said...

And you can be nekkid.