Today is election day. There's an article today in Techdirt referencing a movie about the problems with Diebold (not Deibele) election machines.
I have to admit that I do miss a little bit the tradition of going to the local school or church and voting. Seeing the volunteers, seeing the other people who were motivated enough to make the time to vote. Stepping into the voting booth, drawing the curtain and putting the completed ballot into the box.
But what I don't miss is seeing how few people were there voting. How there weren't any people my age (20s or 30s at the time). How uncertain I felt sometimes about the wording on ballot measures or whether I was remembering the candidate to vote against, not for.
In Oregon, we've had vote-by-mail statewide for 8 years now. There's a nice summary by the Oregon Secretary of State of what Oregon did right. In talking with people, we all agree that it's nice to be able to take our time. We can talk to other people, look at printed materials from parties or special interests, look at the newspaper recommendations or check out the web. We can vote with a lot more confidence.
Any downsides? I suppose there are situations where a boss or a spouse could force somebody to vote in front of them. And I miss the feeling of community from voting day.
But we vote on paper. No need for fancy touch screens at the polling places. No worries about who's writing the software. You can vote by mail or you can drop off your ballot at a local library (as I did this year) or even the county elections office itself. The ballots end up in one place. If there are voting irregularities, they may not be easier to catch but at least there's a limited number of places they can happen: the elections offices, the post offices and libraries. I suppose it's possible that an individual mail carrier could (lose( ballots they figure won't vote their way but that's never happened so far as is known.
To sum up, voting by mail is a system that decreases costs, decreases the risk of fraud and increases voter participation. No wonder most politicians don't like it.1
1: Vote by mail was vetoed by the governor and instituted by state initiative in Oregon.