What Voting Should Be Like

“Hurray for democracy!” I shouted. A guy with a mustache and a hunter’s camo jacket who’d just dropped his ballot chuckled. Nearby, a bald man in a bright-colored sweatshirt leaned out of an SUV, taking pictures or video of a woman putting their ballots in the drop box outside the county courthouse. I’d left my wallet in the car but had my phone in hand so I could take pictures of the ballots going into the box.

See? There they go!

It took all of an hour from Dr. Bae bringing the mail in today, October 16th, eighteen days before the election, to my dropping the ballots in this box, the only delay being the time it took to do the research to make informed choices on some of the down-ballot races and local referenda and drive down into town.

For more than ten years, Washington state, where I live, has had all mail-in elections. Every registered voter receives a voter’s pamphlet a month before the election, in which candidates introduce themselves and cases for referenda or ballot initiatives are made and rebutted. Then, twenty days before the election, every registered voter is mailed a ballot, along with a tab to follow the vote as it’s collected and counted.

Look at this gorgeous thing.

It’s fucking awesome. Seriously, it’s so much better than vote in person, which I was happy to do when that’s what people did. But did I always do the research beforehand to make informed choices? No. I didn’t. And even if I had, who’s to say I’d have remembered it. No, it’s so much easier to crack open the voter’s guide, fire up the old internet machine, and take the time I need to make sure my voice is not only heard, but that it’s saying what I want it to say.

Also, and I can’t stress this enough, there’s a paper trail. Actual, physical paper. The best guarantor of election security there is.

This year, voting was quick and easy. This year, it’s Democrats all the way down the ticket. Since my general rule is to always vote for the most liberal/progressive viable candidate, that’s most years. But if you’re reading this, and you aren’t voting Democrat all the way down (especially at the state and local level), please please please reconsider, just this one time. For all our sakes.

Today was the fastest turnaround I’ve ever done for getting my ballot in. I’m usually a late voter. Not because I’m a late decider — I’m too compulsively informed for that — but because I’m lazy and I suck at time management. This year is different, for reasons we’re all too painfully aware of. But either way, I had the privilege of getting my ballot, dropping what I was doing, and getting it filled out and dropped off as fast as I reasonably could. Like I said, I took only the time I needed to make sure I was voting what I actually want. But if I didn’t have that privilege? If, say, I was an essential worker who had a shift today, or on election day? If I only had five minutes here and there over the course of a week to do my research? If I couldn’t get my ballot in til the last minute? No big deal. It only has to be postmarked by November 3rd. I would not even need a stamp (though if you got one, use it; the Post Office could use some love right now).

Expanding the number of people voting is not only good for small-d democracy. It’s good for liberals and progressives of all stripes. Because it’s not true, as is said ad infinitum, that America is a center-right country. If it was, the Republicans wouldn’t need to do all the voter suppression, gerrymandering, vote stealing, and ratfucking they do. They’d just win, fair and square. But when things are fair and square, it’s the Democrats who win, because America’s center-left, or even left-wing now Covid and late-stage capitalism have worked us all over so fucking thoroughly.

We are the majority. It behooves us to make sure everyone votes, or can vote, for reasons both idealistic and partisan. It’s a win-win.

And if you’re looking for a good way to do it, mail-in balloting on the Washington model is a damned good place to start.

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