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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Opinion

Relax folks; voting by mail really has merits

The Spokesman-Review

The following editorial appeared Monday in the Tri-City Herald.

To all those faithful voters out there who treasure actually going to the polls to cast your ballots on election day: We understand.

It’s a part of Americana that those who have tried come to like, especially if it’s not raining, snowing or blistering sunshine.

But now that Benton will join Franklin and a number of other counties in all-mail voting beginning in 2006, we’d like you to consider that this method has its virtues, too.

First, the atmosphere can be more relaxing. As local residents who have voted “absentee” for years will tell you, there’s plenty of time to make up your mind about how you really feel on an issue or a candidate. And talk it over with someone you trust.

No more impulse voting because a last-minute charge (true or otherwise) goads you into action.

Then there’s convenience. Vote where you please when you please, just so long as your ballot is delivered or postmarked by Election Day.

Election officials need to monitor the new system to ensure it’s safe and reliable. The change isn’t irreversible, especially if ballots are lost in the mail or voter participation goes down.

For now, those who are skeptical about the mail service may deposit their ballots at the county auditors’ offices.

Or, if tradition is too strong a draw, there will still be opportunities to vote in person at those same auditors’ offices.

Newspeople for generations liked to vote in person and then report to their editors whether turnout appeared heavy or light. It was sometimes, but not always, a sign of just how long the election night would be for them before they could go home.

There was something good about casting your ballot and getting the little “I Voted” sticker of a flag and getting a renewal of the sense of belonging to a system where the people really are in charge.

One drawback of the new system, as it was with the mail-in system before, is that while the county saves money on collecting and counting ballots, the voters pick up more of the tab.

The post office requires a stamp on every ballot envelope, although again, you can dodge that cost by dropping off the ballot at any time at the auditor’s. The gasoline could set you back even more, though.

Consideration should be given to using postage-paid envelopes for voting. It could increase participation.

For the entire lives of most people living today, there has been a local and national push to get more people to the polls.

Now, the push is to get the polls to the people.

It may prove to be a change for the better.

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