There were dirty, rotten tricks, particularly in Georgia, where Republican Brian Kemp engaged in what Boston Globe columnist Renee Graham rightfully called “the most blatantly racist voter suppression tactics since the vicious days of poll taxes and so-called literacy tests.”
There were long lines across the country, with voters far and wide forced to wait hours upon hours just to have their voices heard.
In some places, there weren’t enough voting machines. In others, precincts were late to open. In still others, there were ballot shortages, car crashes and power outages — all of which needlessly affected peoples’ Constitutionally enshrined right to vote.
In North Carolina, the humidity — yes, the humidity, in North Carolina of all places — contributed to problems feeding ballots through tabulators.
There’s an easy fix to all of it, one that Washington, the Evergreen State, home sweet home, helped pioneer along with Oregon and Colorado.
I’m talking about voting by mail.
Voting by mail became an option here in 2005. Since 2011, every county — including the last to hold onto physical polling locations, Pierce — has voted entirely by mail. This year, for the first time, postage was even paid.
It’s time for voting-rights champions across the country to make voting by mail a top priority as we move toward 2020 and beyond.
Don’t believe it?
Again, look at Tuesday’s midterms and the myriad hassles and headaches we saw across the nation.
After watching people wait in long voting lines across the country, well-known pollster Stuart Elway put it bluntly for Crosscut’s Knute Berger.
“I looked at that and thought, that’s just insane,” Elway said.
He’s absolutely right.
If Elway’s endorsement isn’t enough for you, take it from Republican Secretary of State Kim Wyman. Touting increased turnout and convenience, Wyman said during a Reddit AMA session back in September that all-mail voting “has most assuredly helped democracy.”
If that’s not the goal, what is?
It’s here that I’ll acknowledge I was late to the party. The appeal of the tradition and ceremony of actually going to a polling place is real.
I remember 2008 like it was yesterday, standing in line at Gloria Dei Lutheran Church on South 19th waiting to cast my ballot for Barack Obama. Later that night, he would become the nation’s first black president.
The ritual felt right and waiting in the halls of that church for more than an hour was a civic duty I was grateful to partake in.
At the time.
I can only assume it was a feeling that extends beyond party lines, and more conservative readers likely recall casting a vote for Reagan with a similar nostalgic affinity.
But here’s the unequivocal, unavoidable truth: Times change, and it’s time our voting caught up.
While there’s part of me that still misses the option of voting in person — of drawing the curtain and pulling a lever — this is 2018. We clearly have the ability to make voting far easier, so why aren’t we?
There are only two answers: stubborn resistance to change or calculated inaction.
Neither is compelling nor satisfying.
“By Tuesday afternoon,” as the Associated Press reported on Election Day, “the nonpartisan Election Protection hotline had received more than 30,000 calls from voters reporting problems at their polling places.”
Here’s guessing that number — which was nearly double the number of calls received by the same time during midterm election in 2014 — only grew larger.
That’s not just unfortunate, it’s an indictment of the outdated voting system still used in places large and small across the country.
Enough is enough.
Will voting by mail solve all our elections issues? Will it prevent occasional technical gaffes and miscues or swindlers like Kemp in Georgia from doing everything they can to disenfranchise voters? Will it prevent less blatant acts that serve the same purpose?
Of course not. Let’s not be naive. In far too many places voting rights are under attack — behind the scenes and right in front of our faces. It’s deliberate, it’s detestable, and it won’t be stopped without a fight.
Still, as we’ve seen in Washington, voting by mail helps to ensure that every legally registered voter who wants to cast a vote is able to, easily, and without hassle.
That shouldn’t be a partisan issue.
It should be something we all stand behind.