Voting was never a root canal

Emil FranziOnce again Oro Valley is conducting a mail-in election. And once again I will tell you why the concept is fundamentally wrong.

It makes voting easier? Check Iraq or Afghanistan or lots of other places trying to build democratic regimes where they still shoot at you for making the attempt. Voting was pretty damn easy here for quite a while.

My liberal Democrat radio co-host Tom Danehy, who shares my opinion on this subject, reminds us of a news clip from a Philippine election in which an official with a ballot box is being chased by a group of thugs. Not shown is the part where they succeeded and killed him. I witnessed a few years back huge lines in Rocky Point when they were holding something unusual in Mexico – a real election. People wanted to be part of it.

We had it pretty soft. Having to actually leave home and go to a safe polling place isn’t exactly a root canal.

Voting by mail does make it easier – for the election bureaucracy. They prefer to use the money involved to hire a few more permanent employees rather than go through the hassle (for them) of using Election Day temps.

The costs involved are clearly increased in some areas (postage) and decreased in others (poll workers), but that should never be a deciding factor. Ahead of even cops, courts and armies, choosing who’s in charge is the first and most primary duty of government.

At-home voting destroys the secret ballot. Why do you think we have those little booths and curtains? So husbands can’t muscle wives or wives husbands. Mailing out ballots is an invitation to cajole by anyone from the family patriarch and union boss to your mama.

It’s also quite obviously a fraud magnet. Why the same Republicans who are convinced thousands of illegal aliens are voting at the polls are ignoring a system that eliminates their having to go there to do it is beyond me. I recognize that most voting systems are legit, but it doesn’t take much dog barf to ruin an otherwise great burger.

While supposedly being in the best interest of individual voters, the at home ballot can screw them in two ways by returning it too early or returning it too late.

Return it too early and you may learn something that would’ve changed your mind about a candidate or an issue. The elimination of late information was sold as a virtue by advocates of early voting because it would eliminate last-minute smears. It also eliminates last-minute facts. Which is why many folks hold onto their ballot until the last minute.

Only return it too late and it doesn’t count. One stat I have never seen election officials produce is how many ballots get tossed every time for late delivery.

But my greatest complaint is that the entire concept (beyond taking care of the ballots of those physically unable to get to a polling place including those who are out of town) is totally demeaning to the election process.

What advocates are really saying is “we recognize this voting thing is really not important to you. You’re right — it’s no big deal. We want to make it so easy it won’t inconvenience you at all.” Turnout is not increased by telling people voting is not worth much effort.

Election days used to be local and national events. They were part of that Norman Rockwell kind of glue that helped hold the country and its culture together. To eliminate them is to eliminate one more part of what made America a great nation.


  1. NICE! You hit all my complaints and concerns.

    I would add that there are too many (one, would be) parents who get their child’s ballot and vote it for them.

    I can’t tell you how many times I have tried to register a college kid and been told that they can’t re-register because their parents vote for them back home. It is probably the case,too, that some of them re-register and then vote here,anyway without changing their other voter registration.

  2. Totally agree. We have so many time-saving and labor-saving devices, ya’d think we’d all have PLENTY of time to make the teensy physical effort to vote in person.
    It does have its roots in bureaucratic laziness, which then opens opportunities for exploitation and abuses by political partisans.

  3. Well stated, Emil.

    I am on the permanent early voting list and I really miss seeing my neighbors on election days. I’m thinking of returning to voting at the polls on election day.

    “Norman Rockwell type of glue…” nice analogy. We don’t have enough of that anymore.

  4. Many, many years ago I had to take a civics test of 5 questions and pass it to be allowed to vote. I also had to show proof of who I said I was, prove how long I was a resident of the area. When I took the test and passed I was so proud, I stood in line whether it was rain or shine, cold or hot to vote and for hours. It was my duty and my privilidge to vote.

  5. Capitol Observer says

    Your comments sound good. All of us want voting to be a privilege for Americans. And, somehow, early ballots seem, well, not so exciting as the lines at the polls. Going to the polls to vote is a great experience. It reads like you would like to undo mail-in ballots.

    But, your commentary is so vague and limited in context that it fails to persuade. Frankly, I could argue that late delivery of ballots is not reported because the number of late deliveries is so small as to be insignificant (kind of like showing up too late at the polls). Neither of us have any facts to back our personal assertions.

    As to “too early” a mailing, come on, in this day and age of alternative press and bloggers, there is very little information that isn’t gathered and reported well before the start of early voting for any major offices. Of course, again, neither you nor I have any facts to argue either side of that issue. (At least you didn’t report any and I admit to having none.)

    You note the faint possibility of a loss of the secret ballot as a sin against the voters. But, no one in my family would allow me to see their ballots anymore than I would let them see mine. You allege parent fraud with no facts to support your concern. I could just as easily report that the mail-in ballots increases voter participation, particularly in off-calendar elections. Which would be a good thing.

    Fraud would be a concern if there had been any reported. I don’t recall any case of mail-in ballot fraud. In fact, the ballots can not be forwarded, so even the possibility of a voter moving and voting from another district is diminished with early ballots. It’s a hard sell to persuade us of a “magnet” of voter fraud without proof of it happening.

    I would have liked the old campaign days, with real stump speeches and getting to know the candidates better. But, times change and opportunities for more communication improve, just like opportunities to vote.

    It’s nice in Arizona that we can vote at the polls or from our homes. So, Norman Rockwell would paint a different picture of voting today – that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Voting from home does not make it less important – at least to me and my friends. Casting any ballot is a privilege I don’t take lightly, even from my overstuffed chair.

    I don’t support doing away with mail-in ballots – they are not fundamentally wrong. They are different. They increase voter participation. They give us more time to evaluate the bottom of the ballot. They even change the approach to campaigning. Candidates are now answerable to more of us earlier in the political process.

    I like having the option. A friend of mine always gets a mail-in ballot, but delivers it to the polling place on election day to experience both privileges.

  6. The Vote By Mail program was constructed to serve the consultants that make money off devising the mail programs that win elections. What better way to sort out who votes so you can target an audience. It doesnt increase participation, but it does reduce work and cost for the govt. With enough money and a competent consultant you could elect a turnip.

  7. Emil Franzi says

    Capitol Observer requires a response.

    “All of us want voting to be a privilege for Americans…” No, most of us recognize it as a fundamental right for a citizen in a free society. My fundamental point was that it contains certain responsibilities to maintain it.

    “It reads like you want us to undo mail-in ballots.” What was your first hint? The first paragraph?

    “I could argue that late delivery of ballots is not reported because the number is so small as to be insignificant.. Neither of us have any facts to back our personal assertions.” I raised the question. You apparently have no interest in discovering the answer.

    “…there is very little information that isn’t gathered and reported well before the start of early voting for any major offices.” Perhaps you haven’t noticed but campaigns continue after the early ballots are mailed and polling data often indicates sizable shifts for top offices in the last 30 days, like in the 2010 MA Senate race.

    In the most recent special congressional election, NY CD 23, note that one of the three candidates dropped out a few days before the election. In the 1990’s the GOP candidate for Governor of MN resigned about two weeks out. The guy who replaced him actually won. And late breaking things like the Ted Stevens conviction surely changed the outcome of the 2008 AK senate race. Gee, stuff happens. A lot.

    Those are just a few from the top of the ticket. How about the bottom and the ballot props? Everybody in concrete early on all of those?

    You are unconcerned about the loss of the secret ballot because “no one in my family would allow me to see their ballots anymore than I would let them see mine.” In many patriarchal (and even matriarchal) cultures it doesn’t work that way. And I didn’t allege “parent fraud”, another poster (thank you, Travis) pointed it out with the evidence that people had confessed doing it. I will however be glad to add it to the arguments for dumping early voting. And destroying the secret ballot destroys more relative family values.

    You are apparently unaware that voting fraud exists in America. It even gets reported in Chicago. It comes in two basic forms, retail and wholesale. Retail is at the polling place with ringers, stuffing, discarding, etc. Wholesale comes in the counting room. The former is easier to spot by trained challengers, the latter is greatly enhanced by voter turnouts that are what the computer claims as opposed to what we actually saw show up.

    You claim that at home voting increases participation. Your evidence is? You claim it gives you “more time to evaluate the bottom of the ballot.” How does reducing the total time alloted increase yours? We all still get a sample ballot. You can study it and the publicity pamphlet at home all you want and you can bring it with you to the polls. That’s the get off the couch part you dislike. Tough.

    You like having the option. I find granting you that privilege detrimental to a free society.


  8. Capitol Observer says

    An intellectual conversation shouldn’t fall to the type of rancor you are raising.

    So, rather than point out that the few bits of “evidence” of problems supporting your claims happened outside Arizona, I will simply apologize for stepping on your toes and continue to support vote by mail.

    A brief trip through the Internet convinces me that the evidence for increased voter participation is well documented, even in Arizona. Fraud appears to be less, which, frankly surprises me. (I didn’t deny voter fraud exists – only that you presented no proof of it.) The bottom of the ballot discussion I raised was based on more time to mark the ballot without a sense of hurry. You know that historical records reflect a lot of none voting on long ballots for the items on the bottom (judge retentions, local election questions, etc) and that such none voting has improved with vote by mail.

    And, as far as getting of the couch – well, that’s a bit rude, don’t you think? I thought reasonable people could disagree without becoming disagreeable. (I usually work at the polls for candidates I support -so I don’t think your attack about getting off the couch on election day holds any traction when you make it personal in a reply.)

  9. Emil Franzi says

    Response #2 to Capitol Observer.

    Sigh. This is why some folks succumb and over-capitalize and underscore.

    “…rather than point out that the few bits of ‘evidence’ of problems supporting your claims happened outside Arizona…” You just did, so please don’t be cute.

    Arizonans come from a different gene pool? We stop campaigns as soon as the early ballots are mailed?

    How about the three incidents I can name in modern AZ history where candidates have DIED within 30 days of an election? Why do you think so many folks hold their ballot to the last minute? Have you ever noticed changes in poll results during the last 30 days here as well as elsewhere?

    “A brief trip through the internet convinces me that the evidence for increased voter participation is well documented, even in Arizona.” Please go back for a little longer and quote something beyond the opinion of an election official to support your findings such as actual statistical comparisons of voter turnout in a series of elections in the same jurisdiction for the same office.

    As to fraud, I refer you and others interested to two excellent books: STEALING ELECTIONS by John Fund and IF IT’S NOT CLOSE THEY CAN’T CHEAT by Hugh Hewitt.

    You seem to believe that less people vote for the bottom of the ticket races and ballot props because of lack of time. I believe it happens because of lack of interest. We could prove that by breaking out both at the polls ballots from at home ballots for the same races and see if the percent of drop off is similar. As you have raised the drop off issue and made it, if obliquely, the original assertion, that research becomes your obligation.

    Finally, you want the “option” of voting at home. You may recall the original sentence of my article said ORO VALLEY. Like many AZ jurisdictions, Oro Valley has mail-in only elections. There are no polling places for you to hand out material at. There is no option.

    Sorry you bruise so easily.


  10. Capitol Observer says

    I’m thinking the bruise to your ego is showing.

    I am done debating this issue with someone who is so determined to be right despite not giving facts, that he responds with attacks.

    Have a nice day in Oro Valley.

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