Friday, October 26, 2007

Voting by Mail, the Downside

Seattle's Vote by Mail was a long time coming, it was sped up by a heated election between current Governor Christine Gregoire, and her opponent Dino Rossi. We now have a majority of ballots cast by mail, and I'm a fan of this. We had it down in Portland and it was a great way to vote. You have time to do some research on the races and decide without the pressure of a voting booth, what you're for and against.

What I don't like is that we have to pay to vote. The cost of mailing a ballot, while not a large expense (the price of a first class postage stamp) may be prohibitive for some voters, and that marginalizes a population; which is the last thing an election should be doing. Now I know that there are drop off locations for mail-in ballots, but that takes most of the convenience and boon for a mail in ballot away. Is someone that can't afford a stamp really likely to seek out their local drop off location? I think no.

If I recall correctly, the mail in ballots in Portland, OR were postage paid. As I understand it, postage paid envelopes are only charged when used, so there is no waste. Why can't we put the money we're saving by not having voting locations towards postage paid ballots?

Also, on the subject of voting, I'm interested in how many of you are put off by Venus Velasquez' recent drunk driving arrest. The Stranger hasn't pulled it's endorsement, but I have to say, I was surprisingly hesitant to vote for her after her recent arrest and lack of taking responsibility for the charge. I have to be true to my gut feeling here, and I sure don't give Jane Hague a break, so why Velasquez? Is it because she's a DEM that the liberal newspaper thinks she's still the candidate for them? Hypocrisy takes many forms. It doesn't mean you have to play.

Finally, I really think it's time Seattle grew a backbone and realized that we need some local activism to get things done here. I was surprised, while looking through candidates web sites for the local school board vote, that this may be the last time we get to vote for School Board members. I'm not sure whose site I read it on, but it was said that it may soon be the duty of the Mayor to appoint school board members. That sounds like a mistake to me, and no one is talking about this. But my primary beef is not with the mayor, or school board issues, but with transportation. Back to Portland, I remember moving there in the mid nineties, and the city was being torn up for light rail. The MAX was being hauled out to the airport and the suburbs to take people to huge employers like Nike and Intel. I'm not certain of the numbers, but I'm sure that Oregonians had to make some hard decisions to get this all done and they did it. The light rail system in Portland is a wonder, and it's without turnstiles and toll booths. It's run on an honor system. You buy a ticket from the vending machine (or don't) and board the train. If you get caught riding without a ticket you get a hefty fine, but most people pay willingly.

Seattle needs to bite the bullet here and fix it's transportation problems. The monorail was a disaster. The public was willing to pay for it, we were paying for it in car tabs and years into it, multiple passed measures to fund it, we were shafted and it was killed. And we put up with it. There's something wrong with Seattle, and I'm not talking about the traffic. We're a lethargic lot, we can't make a decision and see it through. And we must, if not for ourselves, than for our future. Single occupancy vehicles are quickly becoming cost prohibitive; financially and environmentally. The internal combustion engine is going the way of the laserdisc. New forms of transportation will replace it, but where will there be to go?

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