Monday, February 14, 2011

"We Should All Vote by Mail Because I Love Cauliflower Soup"

This post by Jessica Levinson originally appeared in the Huffington Post.

I love cauliflower soup, what is the problem?

I love Cauliflower soup. I am not prone to hyperbole. I truly love it. I lose track of time when I'm eating it. Consuming cauliflower soup is a transcendental experience that throws off my schedule. Obviously, that is exactly why we should make it easy to vote by mail, if not institute mail-only elections.

Imagine, if you will, the following scene: It is election day. I am hungry. I stop at my favorite restaurant for cauliflower soup. Hours later I look around to see if anyone is watching while I finish licking the bowl, only to realize the polls have closed. I've missed the election.

Many of us lead busy lives. Though it seems almost difficult to believe, people are consumed with doing things other than digesting pureed vegetables. We are working, running errands, taking care of family and friends, fighting traffic, exercising, and even sometimes relaxing. What too few of us are doing, however, is voting.

Goodbye polling places, hello post office?

In order to encourage more people to vote, lets make voting convenient. In fact, lets make it so convenient that one can do it in their own abode, at their leisure. Toodles hassling for parking at a polling place, waiting in line, giving your address, trying to make sure the ballot machine is working, and remembering how you decided to vote or to bring the paper on which you jotted down how you decided to vote. (Not to mention darting under tables to avoid chatty neighbors). Instead, hello kitchen table, cup of tea, and mail-in ballot.

In California, while the Legislature has yet to agree to call a special election in June, Governor Jerry Brown has already floated the idea that were that election to happen, everyone should vote by mail. This would be California's first mail-only election. In support of his proposal Brown has said that "It's cheaper, easier for people and half the electorate is now used to that."

While there will be a period of transition, it is hard to argue with a proposal that saves both money (estimates show that it could save counties in California millions) and time. Not to trivialize, but would a counter argument go something like, "no, I want my state to spend more public funds, and I want to decrease the chance that more people will vote"?

Voting by mail is indeed catching on in some parts the country. In Tampa, Hillsborough County received a record number of requests to vote-by-mail in an upcoming election. What do Tampa voters know? That it is warm outside, and its better to spend time there than under the flattering fluorescent lights of your neighborhood gym, or other polling place.

What's the catch?

There is an important caveat to my pro vote-by-mail proposal. Mail service must be reliable for all. No one should be asked to do something as serious as weigh in on the candidates who represent them, or the laws that govern them, without assurances that their opinion will be counted.

In California it would take a two-thirds vote of the Legislature to approve a mail-only election. Anyone familiar with past budget negotiations in California knows exactly how easy that will be.

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