March 22, 2011

SAVING TAXPAYER DOLLARS VS. MAKING PEOPLE FEEL GOOD: Voting By Mail In Marin County Called Unpopular Despite the Fact that 60% Do It!

MARIN COUNTY Registrar of Voters Elaine Ginnold recently told the Board of Supervisors that requiring all county voters to vote by mail could save the taxpayers $300,000 or more a year while boosting voter turnout. Doing so, however, would require a change in state law as only Alpine and Sierra counties are allowed to hold mandatory vote-by-mail programs.

At the same meeting, Supervisor Charles McGlashan, said that compelling everyone to vote by mail is politically unpopular because of some voters' fondness for going to the polls on Election Day. He said, "It's incredibly unpopular right now..."

We'd like to respectfully ask the Supervisor a couple of questions and share some thoughts:

1. If vote-by-mail is so unpopular, how do you account for the fact that 60 percent of Marin County voters already voluntarily vote by mail?

2. As an elected official, doesn't taking unpopular stands sometimes come with the territory?

3. Couldn't the $300,000 or more dollars saved by switching to an all mail voting system be used in a variety of other important county programs?

4. For those residents of Marin County who felt the need to go to a polling place, it would seem reasonable that a few regional voting centers be set up so those folks could cast a ballot "in person."

5. In this era of cutback management, when government is being somewhat dismantled because of budget issues, doesn't it make sense that everyone give up a little? As the Registrar of Voters reflected after the Board session, "Can we afford to support polling places to make people feel good about going to the polls?"

Rather than making some voters "feel good" we should be asking how to make the vote-by-mail program secure, how to make it work for everyone and how to make sure that every ballot is counted the way the voter intended.

If Oregon can do it successfully - so can we.

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