Yesterday was the first major election in my adult life where I did not vote. I could say it was because I don’t have confidence it would matter (I’m not sure it does for national offices), or because there’s nobody I’d like to vote for (probably true), or out of protest because it’s shameful that nobody running for Congress has talked seriously about curtailing state surveillance (it is shameful and they haven’t talked about it), but the truth is I didn’t vote because I got spoiled in Washington and voting in Michigan is relatively inconvenient.
In the state of Washington mail-in ballots are the norm. When you get a driver’s license you are registered to vote, then in the weeks preceding an election you receive a voter’s packet that details all the candidates and ballot measures and your ballot. You fill it out, drop it in your mailbox, postage free, and you’ve voted. It’s as easy as can be reasonably expected, at least until governments start to understand the web a little better, puts the election and its issues front of mind for citizens, and, I have to assume, increases voter turnout.
Contrast the convenience of mail-in ballots with the regular voting process. You have to register, plan a time to go to the polls (on a Tuesday! weekday voting is nuts),1 and attempt to educate yourself about the candidates and ballot measures. The difference may seem slight (and obviously this is the exact process most Americans follow every election), but coming from the world of mail-in elections it seemed laborious and was very easy to procrastinate until it was too late. In order to avoid this issue next time I will attempt to get an absentee ballot, but it could be so much simpler if more states embraced mail-in voting as the default. I’ve been to the mountain top, so to speak, and have seen a better way.
When living in Peru I was surprised by their voting. Voting is mandatory and those who do not vote face fines. Voting takes place on a Sunday and many people have the work day off. One effect of this process that I noticed as an outside observer (I am no expert on Peruvian politics) is the variety of political parties and elected officials that resulted from a higher percentage voting body. Increasing voter turnout through mail-in ballots across our nation might have a similar effect. ↩