making the voting process simple, accessible, and secure
Universal Vote by Mail
What is wrong with the way we vote?
There are two major problems with how most of us vote in the United States:
1) Low Voter Turnout
The United States, the oldest continuous democratic republic, has a dismal record of voter participation. In the 2016 Presidential election, only 55% of voting age citizens cast ballots.
Aside from apathy (which may be due to disenfranchisement from gerrymandering, etc.), there are real obstacles in the way of high voter turnout. Some citizens cannot get away from work during voting hours. Others are turned back by extremely long lines at polling stations, mainly in urban areas where there are often too few machines. And others are turned back by voter ID laws that can be confusing and error-prone.
2) Security Concerns
There exists a lingering fear that our voting machines will be hacked during an election, rendering our votes unreliable. Every state, and sometimes every county within a state, have control over their voting processes. Therefore, there is no one type of voting machine used across the board. However, hackers could potentially invalidate/change thousands or even millions of votes cast.
The other concern is for voting fraud, but actual cases of voter fraud are incredibly rare, to the point of being negligible. Voter ID laws that prevent thousands or millions from voting in order to prevent perhaps three or four cases of fraud seems like bad legislation.
In an optimal democracy, most eligible voters actually cast ballots each election, and those votes are deemed secure and reliable.
Is there a better way?
If election day were moved to a weekend or made a national holiday, that would allow many more people to be able to vote. In addition, opening the polls up for days or weeks prior to the true election day eases the burden.
One idea is to have all voting machines include a paper trail. The voter would need to be able to see what was printed on the paper without being able to take or change it. Unfortunately, this idea carries great expense and opens the voting process to printer breakdowns that could bring the entire process to a halt.
Political Reform suggests a Vote-by-Mail process that can potentially resolve all of these issues, while also saving money.
Explain Vote by Mail
Two states, Oregon and Washington, currently run their elections entirely through the mail. Ballots are sent out to every eligible voter, and then those ballots are filled in and returned via the US Postal Service or dropped off in an official drop box. It is that simple.
How is this better?
Vote by Mail has many advantages over other systems currently employed around the country.
Voting becomes easy and convenient to all citizens who are eligible to vote. Oregon and Washington report high voter participation rates.
Because the state does not need to spend money on voting machines and poll workers, millions of dollars can be saved each election cycle.
Postal Voting alleviates the concern that some entity will hack into voting machines and change the outcome of an election. Mischief would likely be confined to individual ballots (rather than thousands or millions). Oregon, for example, has reported a nearly complete lack of fraud.
Remember that by definition, postal voting includes a paper trail with signatures, which can be used to prevent suspected fraud/tampering.
There are many reasons why someone might not vote on election day. It might be a rainy, miserable day. Or the lines to get into the polling place might be prohibitively long for someone to stand for hours. Or the person might wake up with a bad cold. Or a worker might not be able to take the time off from work, possibly risking wages that are critical.
Vote-by-mail resolves all of these issues so that every eligible voter has the opportunity to cast their vote.
Since you fill out the ballot on your own time in your own home, you have time to fully read and understand everything on it, as opposed to feeling rushed inside the confines a voting booth while others wait in line behind you. You no longer have to wait in a long line to vote.
And for those who enjoy the satisfaction of getting out and voting, they can still drive to an official drop-off location and turn it in directly.
What about secrecy? I don't want the government to know how I voted.
Here is how they handle it in Washington State:
1) Your signature on the outer return envelope is checked against the signature on file in your voter registration record to make sure they match.
2) You are credited for voting in that election. This ensures that only one ballot from each voter is counted.
3) The outer return envelope, which identifies you, is then separated from the inner security envelope, which contains your voted ballot. Your ballot cannot be traced back to you, ensuring the secrecy of your vote.
4) All ballots are inspected to make sure the tabulating machine will be able to read all votes. Tabulation equipment is tested before every election to make sure it is working accurately.
Who can make these changes?
Voting processes are determined at the state or county level.
Political Reform suggests you contact your state representatives and write letters to the editor in support of Vote-by-Mail, also known as All Postal Voting.
Recent article on potential for hacking of our elections: