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Monday, October 29, 2012

A Perfect Storm for Vote-by-Mail

Posted by on Mon, Oct 29, 2012 at 7:40 AM

Even as much of the East Coast was boarding up and evacuating low-lying areas in preparation for the arrival of Hurricane Sandy, pundits were already talking about what kind of impact this storm might have on the election. Given that the storm is hitting a week in advance of Election Day, I'm hoping not much, though depending on its severity and how long it lingers, flooding, downed trees, icy roads, and power outages could persist.

But imagine if the storm had arrived a week later.

A direct Election Day hit on heavily Democratic Philadelphia could depress voting there enough to swing Pennsylvania and the entire election to Romney. Or should a storm zero in on southern Virginia, it could depress rural voting there, swinging that key state to Obama. An entire presidential election could hinge on a storm track.

But a similar storm bearing down on the Pacific Northwest? Meh. With both Washington and Oregon voting entirely by mail, voters here would have plenty of opportunity to drop their ballots in the mail well in advance of the bad weather.

Personally, I miss the polling place and the sense of civic unity it engendered. I loved hanging out, chatting with the poll workers and my neighbors, and getting a first hand feel for the level of Election Day excitement. In fact, I hated the notion of voting by mail so much, that for my first few elections after King County converted, I drove down to the elections headquarters and voted in person.

But vote-by-mail and other systems that encourage early voting make it so much harder to suppress turnout, be it intentionally or through an act of nature, it is worth the tradeoffs. No long lines, no broken voting machines, no cynical voter ID laws. No bad weather. For these and other reasons (like, say, a guaranteed paper trail) vote-by-mail is clearly a superior option to the way most of the other states conduct their elections.


Comments (22) RSS

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care bear 1
So my ballot never arrived to my new east coast address, even though I changed my address months ago and even received mail from King County elections here. I printed one out and was going to mail it today but I can't leave my house to mail it because there's a fucking hurricane. I guess I'll just have to pay some extra money to mail it priority or express on Wednesday, or whenever I can leave this apartment again.
Posted by care bear on October 29, 2012 at 8:00 AM · Report this
care bear 2
Also, classes were cancelled today and tomorrow and I don't have class on Thursday or Friday so this will be basically a week-long weekend for me. I was bored three days ago. I hope Slog is entertaining today/for as long as I have power.
Posted by care bear on October 29, 2012 at 8:03 AM · Report this
Catalina Vel-DuRay 3
Care bear, as long as your ballot is postmarked by Election Day, you are fine. I certainly hope you won't be stranded until then. Take care, dear.
Posted by Catalina Vel-DuRay on October 29, 2012 at 8:04 AM · Report this
I agree with you, Goldy, about the excitement of voting on Election Day. I enjoy the companionship, the thrill of exercising my civil right with other Americans (even if they are voting incorrectly). And I am lucky to have bosses who don't mind if I take off half a day to stand in line. I still get paid, but most people don't have that luxury so I decided to take advantage of early voting so I am not clogging the lines on Election Day. I voted Oct. 19, only standing in line for an hour (in Georgia). There was still the camaraderie and excitement because early voting is still regular voting, with shorter lines. Now, I don't have to worry about weather or anything else getting in the way on Election Day (or worrying that my absentee ballot won't be counted).

Early voting is the best! I strongly recommend it to everyone who live in a state it is available. Oh, and ask a friend to go with you, that's what I did.
Posted by Bugnroolet on October 29, 2012 at 8:05 AM · Report this
I've never voted in person, always by mail, and I always appreciated the privacy and the fact that we don't feel a sense of needing to rush like those in states who have to go to polls on certain days.
Posted by suddenlyorcas on October 29, 2012 at 8:08 AM · Report this
Tacoma Traveler 6
The weatherman on the news today said, "Sandy is big, wet, sloppy and ugly, and she's headed for New York".

Does anybody here know a Sandy that matches this description?
Posted by Tacoma Traveler on October 29, 2012 at 8:15 AM · Report this
@1 I haven't got my ballot at my new east coast address, either, even though I changed address by phone before the deadline in early October.
Posted by rationaland on October 29, 2012 at 8:22 AM · Report this
care bear 8
@7 You can print one out at If you're registered in King County, that is.
Posted by care bear on October 29, 2012 at 8:34 AM · Report this
Goldy 9
@1 Washington's vote-by-mail deadline is POSTMARKED by election day. Oregon's deadline is received by election day. Your circumstances provide more support for my adamant opposition to Secretary of State Sam Reed's obsession with moving toward a received by deadline (an obsession the Seattle Times editors, of course, fully support).
Posted by Goldy on October 29, 2012 at 8:34 AM · Report this
care bear 10
@3 and 9 Thanks. I was under the impression they had to be received by election day.
Posted by care bear on October 29, 2012 at 8:36 AM · Report this
Josh Bis 11
With both Washington and Oregon voting entirely by mail, voters here would have plenty of opportunity to drop their ballots in the mail well in advance of the bad weather.

Meh. But, USPS motto aside, with catastrophically bad weather would there be anyone to actually pick up the mail and deliver it? That is, does the state have any stats about the distribution of early voting (e.g., the percent who vote day-of vs. a week ahead?).
Posted by Josh Bis on October 29, 2012 at 8:41 AM · Report this
My primary complaint about voting by mail (aside from the stamp requirement) is that my ballot return envelopes always come mostly pre-sealed due to exposure to rain. So, I'm always having to find ways to get them open with as little damage as possible and to reseal them using whatever materials I have available. Every goddamn time! This year, we voted over brunch, and I ended up having to use watered down mashed potato as a sealant. Fuckers.

Really, King County Elections Department, it rains here. Maybe we can go crazy and incorporate that reality into our materials choices?
Posted by stating the obvious on October 29, 2012 at 8:52 AM · Report this
stinkbug 13
Seattle Times vote-by-mail editorial, 9/15/13:…

( from… )
Posted by stinkbug on October 29, 2012 at 8:58 AM · Report this
Goldy 14
@12 I know. I've written about this before. One of those self-adherent envelopes with the pull off strip would work better in our climate.
Posted by Goldy on October 29, 2012 at 9:11 AM · Report this
care bear 15
Wow. Even though all metro rail and buses, federal and DC government offices and schools are closed today, the USPS truck just pulled up and delivered my ballot. I'm impressed.
Posted by care bear on October 29, 2012 at 9:18 AM · Report this
Joe Szilagyi 16
Or we can be like sane nations and allow multi-day or multi-week voting in person.
Posted by Joe Szilagyi on October 29, 2012 at 9:31 AM · Report this
Goldy -
1 - why all the way to Elections? Why not just go to Union Station and vote at the Accessible Voting Center?
2 - if people mailed in their ballots earlier, it woudn't matter so much. Those that Elections receives before Election Day are recorded, just not tallied. Get it in early, and your Election Night tallies will be more accurate.
3 - I'm guessing self-adhesive envelopes are more expensive.
Posted by TJ on October 29, 2012 at 11:14 AM · Report this
Will in Seattle 18
@17, @2 - actually, most early ballots are heavily D, so ...
Posted by Will in Seattle on October 29, 2012 at 11:40 AM · Report this
I thought this storm was God's punishment for the sin of voting for Obama.
Posted by six shooter on October 29, 2012 at 12:00 PM · Report this
Sir Vic 20
I do not miss crowding into the lobby of Fremont Baptist, soaked by rain, after waiting in line in the dark for half an hour, to spend all of 90 seconds voting. Vote by mail rocks!
Posted by Sir Vic on October 29, 2012 at 12:40 PM · Report this
Will in Seattle 21
I miss crowding into the lobby of Fremont Baptist, enervated by the rain, after walking a block from the bus stop.
Posted by Will in Seattle on October 29, 2012 at 2:16 PM · Report this
@18 - I think you misunderstand. I'm urging everyone, not just Goldy, to get their votes mailed in early. There's no reason why voters leaning or supporting Republicans couldn't get their ballots mailed before election day.
Posted by TJ on October 29, 2012 at 4:23 PM · Report this

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