Editor’s column: Another un-American election in progress

t’s time for another all-mail election and another diatribe from yours truly, apparently the only person left in American who cares about voter privacy and remembers high school civics, which in those days had nothing to do with communicable diseases.

As I see it, you can’t have secret elections when the ballots are lying around the house like junk mail for all to see, and the voter sitting at the kitchen table is subject to pleading, begging or coercion by someone else, generally the spouse. From high school civics, we remember the term “electioneering” where partisans try to swing voters their way with intrusive tactics. They’re not allowed within a certain number of feet of a polling place. There are no such restrictions around the kitchen table.

We also remember “voter intimidation,” which encompasses a large number of threats, from ostracism to job loss to death. There’s a long, ugly history of voter intimidation in America, much of it race-related. With a truly secret ballot you are subject to none of the above, but it can happen easily at the kitchen table.

The Island County prosecutor has convicted two people of outright voter fraud over the past two years. Good for him, the other 38 prosectors in the state aren’t even bothering with it. He thinks he’s caught all the cheats, which I think is ludicrous, but at least he’s trying. But the bigger problems are electioneering and voter intimidation, and he can’t protect anyone from that.

“Hello, 911? My husband is threatening me if I don’t vote his way. Would you mind sending a police officer to arrest him?” An unlikely phone call, indeed.

For a real life example, consider the Island Transit election and my spouse. Her ballot is on the living room table but she tends to vote only when she cares deeply about an issue. She’s divided on Island Transit. She supports it when it takes me away in the morning, but is critical when it brings me home at night. With such mixed emotions, she may not vote.

Should I try to persuade her to vote? Is pointing out the existence of the ballot electioneering? Perhaps I could offer to wash the dishes for a month if she votes, or two months if she votes my way? That would be illegal and unethical, as I see it, but I can’t say others are so finicky. Someone else might just check her ballot, tell her to sign it and mail it in. Good luck with that, but it could happen in some other household.

In short, elections-by-mail are un-American, anti-democratic, reward abusive personalities and punish the meek who may indeed inherit the earth one day, but not by voting at the kitchen table.

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