Memories of getting an “I voted” sticker, hanging up a U.S. flag, entering the voting booth, could soon be simply memories past.
County clerk-recorder Freddie Oakley is pushing a proposal that would make Yolo County a testing ground for a voting system that operates completely through the mail.
Many of the details are still being ironed out and the legislation that would change the rules has not been formally introduced in the state assembly yet.
Oakley says Oregon is an example of why all-postal voting helps to increase voter participation. Government units that use this process have found a general increase in registered voter participation.
Local assemblymember Mariko Yamada (D-Davis) and state senator Lois Wolk (D-Davis) said they support the idea.
“If students register at home, they won’t have to take the extra step to go out to the polls,” Yamada said. “It’s simpler and time saving. It’s also greener to not have to drive out to the polling place. Elections are costly, and so much money would be saved on paying poll workers.”
At a speech Thursday to the Davis League of Women Voters, Oakley said she recognizes the appeal of the polling place.
“I think that a lot of people love the quaintness of the polling place,” Oakley said. “Bringing your kids to the polling place and following that tradition resonate with people. I do think it is also very outdated.”
The Davis League of Women Voters is trying to garner support to help educate the public about all the all-postal voting process.
“As suffragists, we have always wanted every individual to have some say, which is our first priority,” said Joan Moses, the group’s vice president. “Also, the cost of doing elections would be so much less with all vote-by-mail elections.”
Though the concept of the bill is still very premature, Oakley said she sees potential opposition from interest groups and unions, who have opposed similar bills in the past.
“Workers in unions are mobile people, and these groups see a greater chance of their members being disenfranchised because they would have to re-register so many times,” Oakley said. “This is a rational argument, and we will have to look seriously at how we can deal with it.”
College students also face a difficult situation when it comes to all vote-by-mail ballots.
“College students are also a mobile population, so that would be an issue with them as well,” said Davis LWV President Jean Canary. “If they had their ballot shipped to their home in Santa Barbara for instance, they might not be able to get their ballot in time. So, students should be concerned about this possible legislation, and we are so early in the process that we can still think of solutions for issues like this.”
Oakley said mail forwarding would be the solution, but currently the U.S. Postal Service cannot forward official election mail. Any undeliverable mail is returned to the elections office, creating a burden that Oakley says is “too hard for us to plow through.”
A representative from the California Labor Federation said he would not comment on the proposal since it has not yet been formally introduced as a bill.
Oakley says the legislation would only apply to Yolo County, but hopes that it would encourage other California counties to try all-postal voting as well.
“My number one hope is to learn what the pros and cons of all postal ballots actually are,” Oakley said. “We won’t go forward if we do feel we are disenfranchising people.”
Plans include early voting centers and ballot drop off centers. For those concerned with ballot legitimacy, there would be many tools to insure vote-by-mail security. Commercial scanners, with duplicate copies of damaged ballots, and observers who would come when they are counted would all be used. Ballots mailed without postage would be paid for out of the county budget.
ANGELA SWARTZ can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.