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Fixing American Democracy: Paper Trail Vote by Mail

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Fixing American Democracy: Paper Trail Vote by Mail

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Part 3 of a six-part series. See Part 1: The Right to Vote For Everyone and Part 2: Increase the House

In Part 1 I proposed a constitutional amendment defining our right to vote in a ranked-choice voting system that would increase third-party viability and satisfy the majority’s will better than our “first past the post system.” In Part 2 I proposed that Congress finally ratify Article the First (the original First Amendment) so that the House of Representatives and the Electoral College would better reflect the will of the people.

In this installment, we fight to guarantee the validity of our electoral process against the dangers of electronic hacking by Russians and vote suppression by Republicans, using a time-honored technology that Canada uses to this day – paper ballots!

Step Three: Paper Trail Vote by Mail

I helped legalize marijuana in Oregon and didn’t even have to leave my home to do it.

Homework: NCSL on All-Mail Elections ncsl.org and votingbymail.com.

How it could happen: State initiatives and legislative statutes to change voting systems.

Why it will not happen: Too many GOP states rely on voter suppression to maintain power.

Suppose you were a rich bastard and you wanted to make sure that poor people couldn’t easily vote, so your rich bastard friends can get elected and pass laws favoring rich bastards. How would you go about designing a voting system to that end?

First thing you’d do is make sure to hold the vote in person at a specific day. Since you’re rich, you can rearrange your schedule to have your driver take you to the polls. Poor folks might have a tougher time taking time off of working two jobs, or may have transportation difficulties to get to the polls.

Next, you’d schedule that specific day on a Tuesday. If it was on a Saturday or Sunday, more poor people would have the day off and could go vote. If it were a Monday or a Friday, a few might be able to rearrange sick or vacation days to make a three-day weekend out of it. But on a Tuesday (or Wed/Thu), you make it so someone has to take a day off on the middle of the week. And since all the poor people are trying to get that Tuesday off, many won’t be able to.

Then, you’d make sure that at your gated community’s in-person polling places, they are open, well-staffed, and with plenty of ballots and machines. Your Richie Rich precinct will be an easy ten or twenty minutes hopping out of the Mercedes, marking a ballot, and heading out for an afternoon tee time. The polls for the poors, however, will be understaffed, machines will break, there won’t be enough ballots, and the lines will last four to six hours. Many of the poors in line will have to abandon the wait and get back to work!

Since 2000, my state of Oregon has had exclusive vote-by-mail. You get a election guide from the state that gives you time to research every candidate and initiative. You can fill out that ballot anytime and for just the price of a stamp, you mail it in. There’s an instant paper trail, no need for a day off, no need to stand in line.

Counterintuitively, though, it seems that vote-by-mail does not increase voter participation in the federal elections. Regardless, protecting those who do vote from the risks of hacking makes vote-by-mail worth it, as does the cost savings, increased access for the poor and disabled, and the increased turnout it does provide for off-year and special elections.

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