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It is motivation which keeps the wheels of democracy spinning in our country. The motivation to be involved in politics and to not let decisions simply be made for you. The motivation to get up and travel to a voting center in order to cast your ballot. But this function of our government, the way we vote, is under scrutiny here in San Diego.
According to an article from the Union-Tribune, “State Sen. Christine Kehoe has temporarily shelved her legislation that would have allowed San Diego County to launch a five-year pilot program for all-mail balloting starting next year.”
Although this bill has, for the moment, been taken out of consideration, Kehoe will try to pass it at a later date.
If San Diego ever sees this bill passed, the county could expect to save an estimated $3.5 million during general elections by not having to set up voting centers and pay for their management. These savings are merely a small part of the county’s budget. They would be no consolation for what has been lost.
Proponents of the bill say that, along with saving the county money, the bill will increase the voter turnout rate. But what does this rate mean when only a fraction of it contains informed, interested citizens?
The increase in voter turnout will happen because those citizens who were previously too apathetic to go out of their way to vote can now simply check off several boxes on a sheet of paper, mail in their votes and say they did their duty as American citizens. Making voting simpler for people with little interest in politics will not do anything to decrease those people’s apathy towards voting. In fact, what we accomplish most is that we hand over our system of democracy to a group of people content with having others make decisions for them.
But this isn’t the only concern which a system of mail-only voting would bring about. The safety of the process must be considered as well.
Once the envelope containing the ballot is sent out to registered voters, it leaves the hands of the government entirely and loses quite a bit of security. This increases the possibility of voter fraud. A voter could easily make a quick buck by signing their ballot and giving it to someone else to fill out with their own personal election choices.
The only reassurance we have that this process won’t produce a stream of corruption is that the state of Oregon has been using mail-only voting for over a decade and is yet to uncover any type of voter fraud or corruption. But this doesn’t mean that the risks of mail-only voting are no longer prevalent. All it takes is one incident which greatly alters an election and cheats voters of their access to democracy to expose the shortcomings of the mail-only voting system.
Despite the vulnerabilities which come with voting by mail, it is understandable why there are people who would prefer the method. Some people simply cannot make it to voting centers and voting by mail is their best alternative.
But passing a bill which forces San Diego county registered voters to have to vote by mail is not a wise decision. There should always be an option available to vote by some other method; leaving the people with only one process places the entire voting system’s stability in question.
Stefan Popov is a senior at High Tech High International and an intern at voiceofsandiego.org. He plans to study economics and philosophy at Williams College after graduation.