New Mexico considering Oregon vote-by-mail
Not going to happen this next year, but it could happen:
Since 1998, Beaver State voters have dropped their ballots in special mail receptacles or popped them in the regular mail.
Could New Mexico be next for similarly easy, and cheap, elections?
Maybe, says Secretary of State-elect Mary Herrera.
She's got mail-in elections on her to-look-into list, although not for the 2007 legislative session.
"Mail-in is a lot cheaper and you get a lot higher turnout," she said.
The turnout statewide was more than 52 percent in this election, in which voters picked a governor, statewide officials and members of Congress. In 2002, about 53 percent of voters showed up at the polls on Election Day.
By contrast, Oregon in recent general elections has seen as high as a 90 percent voter turnout, said Connie Higgins, Curry County, Ore., elections administrator and chief deputy county clerk.
There are so many reasons for all states to move to the vote-by-mail system - turnout, cost, ease of use, general enfranchisement and promoting a deliberative voting process (voters get time to consider the issues and candidates, instead of just voting on the spot).
Coming from Oregon to New Mexico, I must admit I was a little frustrated by the voting process. I'm not saying it was especially hard to vote here but rather it is so easy in Oregon. Every year I would just receive my ballot, take my time to consider it and then send/drop it off. If we had systems like this in place across the nation, let alone out west than we could make vast strides towards a more more healthy democracy.
Your Personal Note:
Turnout should not be confused with the percentage of registered voters who cast votes. A much more useful statistic is the percentage of those eligible to vote -- those of voting age who are not disqualified from voting -- casting votes. The 90 percent "turnout" figure cited by Landon Mascareñaz is the percentage of registered voters casting votes, not the percentage of eligible voters casting votes. According to The Center for the Study of the American Electorate, only 50.5 percent of Oregon's voters cast votes in the 2002 general election. Several states, including Minnesota and Maine,saw a higher percentage of eligible voters cast votes.
In actuality, there is very little, if any, evidence that voting by mail in Oregon has increased the turnout in that state by a statistically significant amount.
Oregon's voters seem to like the system because it relieves them of the ordeal of driving to the polls and then standing in line to exercise their franchise. Like a juror who'd rather hand down a verdict before the trial is over, these voters would rather cast their votes before the campaign is over if that's what it takes to avoid going to a polling place on Election Day.
Oregon's elections officials like vote by mail because they think it cuts costs by reducing staffing requirements. Like elections officials all over the country, they regard elections as monumental headaches and have as their highest objective reducing their work load.
Oregon, in recent years, has slipped into serious economic decline. I find myself wondering how much of that decline might be due to an elections system that encourages voters to cast their votes before the campaign is over, and protects them from encountering someone they don't know in a que at a polling place.
Posted by: James Conner | Jan 22, 2007 7:41:14 PM
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(and yes, we know that sometimes they're very, very wrong. Other times, they're right on.)