Vote by Mail Would Ease Election Woes

The great Yogi Berra said it best: 'It's Déjà vu all over again.'  Except instead of the boys of October, we're talking about the long lines and broken machines of November. Allegations of election fraud and voter suppression were once rarities, today they're business as usual for the American voter.  It's time to stop throwing taxpayer dollars at a broken system.  Oregonians have a solution — Vote by Mail.

For more than a decade Oregonians have been successfully voting by mail.  Up to three weeks before Election Day, ballots are sent to all registered voters, giving busy families time to research their votes and carefully mark their ballots, which are then either dropped in the mailbox or delivered to secure drop boxes at libraries, county offices and other convenient locations.  Trained election officials then match the signature on each ballot against the signature on each voter’s registration card, before processing the vote.

The transparency of Vote by Mail eliminates virtually all fraud, while addressing many traditional voting challenges.  For example:
• Vote by Mail eliminates poll problems—there are no long lines, polls to open late or even confusion about where to vote.
• Vote by Mail eliminates voter roll issues and the need for provisional ballots—ballots are mailed only to registered voters at their official address.  Those who do not receive a ballot have ample time to resolve the issue with election officials.
• Vote by Mail virtually eliminates voter fraud—no vote is processed or counted until a trained election official is satisfied that the signature on the ballot matches the signature on the voter’s registration card.
• Vote by Mail reduces the risk of voter intimidation—a 2003 study of Oregon voters showed that groups—like the elderly—who are most vulnerable to coercion prefer Vote by Mail.
• Vote by Mail creates a paper trail.
• Vote by Mail increases voter turnout—by eliminating the need to stand in line at the polling place, voting becomes convenient for hourly wage employees and other working families.  Oregon’s consistently ranks among the top five states in voter participation.
• Vote by Mail encourages educated voters—receiving ballots weeks in advance, gives voters an opportunity to research issues and deliberate in a way that is not possible in a voting booth.
• Vote by Mail saves taxpayer dollars—because there is no longer a need to transport equipment to polling stations and to hire and train poll workers, Oregon has reduced its election-related costs by 30 percent since implementing Vote by Mail.

Last September, building on the success of Vote by Mail in my own state, I teamed up with Senators John Kerry and Barack Obama to sponsor legislation to help other states implement their own version of VBM.  My legislation would create a $110 million, three-year grant program to provide funds for states to help offset the cost of adopting VBM election systems.  States have the option of adopting VBM statewide, within a group of selected counties (or municipalities in states where elections are overseen at this level), or even in a single county or municipality.

The bottom line is that Vote by Mail works and my legislation gives states the funds they can use to make the transition away from traditional voting methods that have led to so many problems, so many concerns and so little confidence in the American election system.