Wednesday, October 14, 2009
YOUR BALLOT IS IN THE MAIL HAVRE
Montana law permits local municipalities and school districts as well as specialized districts such as local fire or sewer districts to hold elections by mail and is certainly not new as it has been around since 1985. There have been many attempts over the last several legislative sessions to amend these laws to include all statewide and federal elections as well including SB 394 this past session which failed.
Mail ballots are used in many states for multiple election systems; however, the States of Oregon & Washington conduct all their elections via mail and they love it according to their respective State Elections Administrators because it is more convenient, cheaper and it increases turnout. Does it?
Well the jury is still out on cost. Locally the State Elections Administrators group lobbied hard for the passage of SB 394 arguing that the cost savings alone makes it a no-brainer. Yellowstone County Elections Administrator Duane Winslow claimed that the State of Montana could have saved taxpayers between 3 and 4 million dollars if the 2008 elections were all mail ballot in his testimony to the Montana House of Representatives; however, he offered no details and no facts to back that up, but they still claim significant savings.
It certainly is more convenient for a number of reasons. 1) no waiting in line, 2) no confusion about where to vote, 3) more time to consider options and ask questions, 4) no need to take time out to go to polls. So it is more convenient.
It also does seem to increase turnout. In Havre’s most recent primary election the turnout was 49% which is much higher than the two most previous conventional primaries and the last City general by mail in 2007 saw as much as 70% turnout in some precincts. Similar findings can be seen across Montana.
Critics of an all mail balloting system claim that any potential cost savings is not worth the risk of fraud and ballot manipulation. Project Vote has contended in a long term study of the system that the facts do not bear out the arguments from proponents. You can read their study by finding it on the internet, it is entitled “Vote-by-Mail Doesn't Deliver.” They make some interesting points in this work, but once again short on facts long on hypotheticals. Repeating theme?
The Corrector is interested in the views of Havre's voters out there on this topic? What say you voters?