The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

December 3, 2012

Other Views: Absentee Voting

Columbia Tribune

— Why not allow unlimited absentee voting? Under current law, voters can cast ballots ahead of time in central locations if they have an excuse: They will be out of town on Election Day or are going into the hospital — or something.

Mere convenience is not an adequate reason, but maybe it should be.

More laxity obviously would benefit voters. Forcing voters to cast ballots at certain polling locations at certain times on certain days clearly interferes with the number of ballots cast.

Election officials can explain why voting-day rules are needed. If the number of voters anticipated at polling places is substantially reduced because of easier absentee voting, how would Wendy Noren and her ilk make plans? Would they have to staff up at absentee locations and also keep staffing levels high at Election Day polling places, an obvious inefficiency?

Some people gripped with nostalgia cite the value of citizens regularly gathering at polling places and experiencing the American dream together, but in our increasingly urban society, this benefit probably pales compared with the chance for more convenience and participation.

Urbanization also makes it easier to locate a few central polling places for absentee voting.

Except for a few grouchy elitists, every citizen and politician will agree maximum voter participation should be the primary goal of any democratic electoral process and only would be enhanced with more latitude for absentee voting.

Up to a point, of course. We can’t be dropping homemade ballots into cardboard boxes on every street corner, but might we allow more flexibility while still retaining proper registration control and management feasibility?

The answer surely is yes. With today’s data storage and retrieval technology, any polling officer at any location can readily check voter eligibility. Current communication from headquarters with registered voters can continue. If more voters cast ballots ahead of time, pressure on Election Day will be eased, seemingly a good thing for election managers.

Other jurisdictions allow and encourage more absentee voting. Let’s have a good discussion why we should not push for the same here.

Columbia Tribune