The ‘Banking’ of Votes Leaves Nothing to Chance

The Freeholder fight unites more than it delights.

I have never asked for a vote-by-mail ballot and I probably never will.

Of course, that may seem odd to many people – like at least 553,000 of them.

Reports this week said that is the amount of vote-by-mail ballots requested statewide for next week’s midterm election. One thing for sure, getting those ballots is easy. There was a time – not really all that long ago – when they were called “absentee ballots,” and you needed to be absent from your town on election day to get one.

No longer. Now, you don’t need an excuse to get a vote-by-mail ballot; you just have to ask for one.

In fact, you may not even have to do that. The state under a new policy this year automatically sent vote-by-mail ballots to all those who requested them last year. On one hand that made things easier, but it also foolishly ignored an obvious fact – just because you voted through the mail last year doesn’t mean you want to do it again this year.

This new policy caused some confusion a few weeks ago, and it remains to be seen if it causes any problems at the polls on Tuesday.

In a culture where too many people do not vote, anything that makes voting easier has some benefit.

Politicians obviously love the vote-by-mail concept.

It’s one thing for a canvasser to say he got commitments from 10 people to vote his way. But it’s quite another if those 10 people actually fill out ballots in advance of election day.

The “banking” of votes leaves nothing to chance.

But I wonder if voters ever regret casting a ballot in advance of election day.

Suppose something happens. For instance, suppose the candidate you voted for on Oct. 26 does something really stupid on Oct. 29. You’re out of luck; your vote will stand.

Ditto for a situation in which credible and damaging information about a candidate surfaces the last week before the election. Vote-by-mail dilutes the significance of the proverbial “October Surprise.”

But there’s more.

I may sound a bit corny. but there’s something about election day that I always enjoyed. I look forward to going to the polls and talking to the workers (they are usually the same) about turnout and asking if there are any problems. I often see people who I know.

The experience to me is an essential part of democracy in action and one that cannot be duplicated by putting an envelope in the mail.

And in Morris County where I live, they give you a little sticker that says, “I voted.”

Good God, why would anyone want to give that up?

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