When all the ballots are finally tallied from last week’s election, the proportion of Californians voting by mail is expected to break the record set in 2012, the first time more than half of the state’s electorate voted absentee. The uptick has more Californians pushing for the state to go all the way and ditch traditional polling places. Washington, Colorado and Oregon require all of their elections to be run entirely by mail, and at least 19 others permit some of their elections to be all mail, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. County elections officials have touted the potential increase in voter interest and significant savings from avoiding the task of recruiting and training polling place workers. And some believe an all-mail system could even help speed up and avoid some overtime ballot-counting. “I say, ‘yes, please,’” said Jill LaVine, the registrar of voters in Sacramento County. “I would love to go all vote-by-mail.” LaVine compared overseeing the current system to running two elections at the same time – one via the Postal Service and another at polling places. The latter process is so resource-heavy that her office essentially “shuts down” counting absentee votes the Friday before an election, leaving a huge pile of ballots to count in the days and weeks afterward, LaVine said. “I could direct all my money and equipment to vote-by-mail,” she said, noting that the rural counties of Alpine and Sierra issue mail ballots to everyone. “All of the expenses and problems of running two elections would be off the table. It would be smooth.” LaVine suggests it also could generate speedier election results by giving officials more time to count mail ballots before an election day. In California, seven congressional and legislative races remained undecided for a week as tens of thousands of late-arriving mail and “provisional” ballots were being tallied.
Neal Kelley, Orange County registrar of voters and president of the California Association of Clerks and Election Officials, said it’s clear voters on their own are embracing the relative ease of vote-by-mail, which gives them 29 days to make their choices and helps them avoid busy polling places, parking and transportation issues, and time away from work. Kelley said that if policymakers are prepared to move toward all-mail-ballot elections, elections officials “are ready to head in the same direction.”
Phil Keisling, former Oregon secretary of state, who helped champion that state’s all-mail-ballot elections, said that 50 percent to 60 percent of the votes were coming in via the Postal Service when the electorate decided to make the switch in 1998.
In 2000, Oregon “rationalized,” the system, he said, mailing out ballots to all voters and creating several channels for them to be returned, including in-person at designated drop stations or government offices. Scaled-down booths are set up for voters who prefer the experience of drawing a curtain and voting in public. Now, within 72 hours of an election day, “my guess is the number of counted ballots stands at 98 or 99percent,” said Keisling, director of the Center of Public Service at Portland State University.
Full Article: California officials ponder all-mail voting.