Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Permanently Absent

Jerry Burris writes a thoughtful column in today's Advertiser on the up and down sides of absentee voting. In a nutshell, it's a good thing that Hawaii's dismal voting turnout has risen slightly thanks to the convenience of absentee voting, but Burris notes that some voters may turn in their ballots too early, and lots could happen (and has) in the last days of a campaign that just might affect a voting decision. Jerry filed his story from Portland, Oregon, a state that votes 100% by mail.

The legislature this year made it easier to vote by absentee ballot. SB156 allows a voter to request an absentee ballot on a permanent basis, not just for the current Primary and General Election, eliminating the need to send a new request for each election cycle. The Governor vetoed the bill, click here for Gov's message, stating that the new law would make the process vulnerable to abuses. The legislature overrode the veto in special session.

A quick check on Oregon voter turnout turned up this story from Oregonian. It includes a stunning fact that while Oregon expected the highest voter turnout in 20 years in their primary last May, between 50% and 60%, that number doesn't come close to the numbers that showed up to vote in 1968. 1968!
In 1968, the Presidential Primary was a race between Eugene McCarthy and Robert F. Kennedy, and the turnout was 72%.

According this SB story in 2006, Hawaii had the lowest voter turnout at 48.6% for the 2004 election, with 20.7% voting absentee. With record numbers turning out for the Democratic caucus this past February, here's hoping that these numbers rise significantly.

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