Letter of the Week
Nothing is more vital to OUR democracy than fair and effective elections. We rely (with varying success) on public officials for fairness and competence in the design and administration of our election process. We also rely (with varying success) on our citizenry to participate in the process.
We must also rely on the media to do its part in promoting fair and effective elections. By providing adequate and appropriate information, commentary and analysis, our media can educate and inform voters on candidates, issues and on the electoral process itself.
Unfortunately, each media outlet can also dramatically impact our elections in a negative way by misinforming voters with the manner in which it chooses to cover (including the choice to not cover) a candidate, issue or the election process itself. I'm not even going to comment on the recent, despicable and possibly partisan performance by George Stephanopoulous and Charlie Gibson in ABC's recent faux debate.
Here in Oregon we pride ourselves on our having the first statewide vote-by-mail (VBM) system in the United States. It provides a number of significant benefits, most notably in reducing the cost of administering an election. It also reduces some barriers to voter participation, such as ballot access for disabled voters, absentee voters and others who cannot get to the polls on election day. And let us not forget the benefit of VBM's convenience factor in increasing turnout among the harried, lazy and forgetful amongst us.
This morning I read an editorial in The Bulletin reminding first-time voters and those wishing to change their political party affiliation to re-register by April 29 in order to participate in our closed partisan primary elections this May 20.
What I DIDN'T read in The Bulletin was a reminder that VOTERS WHO HAVE MOVED since they last registered to vote MUST ALSO RE-REGISTER in order TO RECEIVE ANY BALLOT AT ALL!!!
Having knocked on thousands of doors over the past several years registering voters utilizing county records showing names, addresses and party affiliation, I can assure you that those living in less affluent areas and those registered as Democrats or as non-affiliated voters are substantially less likely to still live at their previous voter registration address than those in wealthier neighborhoods and/or those registered as Republicans. Thus, our system inadvertently disenfranchises Democrats, non-fffiliated voters and the poor simply because, for a variety of reasons, they are much more mobile and are probably less likely to forward their mail for any number of reasons.
For those readers who might doubt my assertion that these voter groups are "disproportionately mobile" and thus disenfranchised by our VBM system, please write your Oregon elected representatives (especially Secretary of State Bill Bradbury and the candidates running to succeed him in this year's race) to demand that this issue be studied and results quantified so that appropriate remedies are crafted in an expedited manner.
Bill Maurer, Bend