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A Cranky Day for Our Democracy

I happened to notice a note by Jamelle Bouie over at Tapped called A Sad Day for Our Democracy which links to a Washington Post article pointing out that voter registration was down between 2008 and 2010, and the decrease seemed to be particularly among Latino and African-American citizens. Of course, registration tends to be down for midterms, and registration tends to be down during economic slumps, but states have gone from paving the way to putting up obstacles, and that makes a difference, too.

I bring this up because my own municipality has, in the interest of efficiency and costs, wiped out more than half of our polling places. We went from twenty to nine, just last month. Not, you understand, as some sort of plot by the Other Party to reduce voter turnout. Purely because of costs. Decreased turnout will be a surprise. I know I plan on being surprised, myself, and I expect the Mayor and the Town Council will be surprised as well.

For some reason, I am particularly bitter about the decreased polling places in this country over the last couple of decades—it has not been the case, as I understand it, that public transportation has dramatically improved during that time, or that those with jobs work shorter hours, or that any of the other issues with accessibility have changed. On the other hand, the logistical difficulty of securely combining votes from twenty polling places has dramatically decreased during that time. On the other other hand, I do admit that the cost of the machines for counting votes has increased, but this is mostly true in places that use the wrong machines. The optical scanner ones should be (might not be, but should be) cheap.

Look, it makes sense to be much more upset about the vicious anti-voting measures supported by the Other Party in the name of opposing a fraud epidemic that is itself a fraud. This just happens to be one of my hobby horses. And they snuck it up on me. So keep an eye out in your town, if you can, so they don’t sneak it past you, too.

Tolerabimus quod tolerare debemus,


IF (and it's a big IF) early voting is made legal, it can be possible to reduce the number of polling places without reducing turnout, I think, although who turns out probably changes. But probably not as much money is saved that way . . .

Save the Post Office. Vote by mail.

In our state, you only qualify for an absentee ballot if you won't be near the polling place on Election Day. That's becoming a more common condition, even for people who aren't traveling.

In CT they were talking about changing the law to allow people to vote absentee by choice rather than necessity, and of course they don't do anything to enforce the rule. Still, as Chris alludes to, the vote-by-mail business can wind up privileging the people who already turn out in disproportionate numbers (union members!) without necessarily bringing new people in to the franchise.

When YHB lived in Virginia, it was possible for at least some elections to vote at the town hall several days before Election Day. Come to think of it, in California as well. Not that I know whether they counted those ballots, of course, but I cast them, and it was more convenient for me than an absentee ballot. Do absentee ballots still require a notary's seal? Or was that an Arizona thing?


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