Voting by Mail Should be Free

While parts of our nation engage in voter suppression, the city of Santa Clara continues to provide new ways to increase voter participation and provide citizens with tools to evaluate candidates. The most recent proposal, from Councilmember Dominic Caserta, calls on the city to provide postage-paid envelopes for ballots.

The idea should be statewide or, at least, countywide. The burden of paying postage to vote is small poll tax. Those who can afford it and are motivated will comply; many who are below the living wage threshold will not. Moreover, the cumbersome nature of the ballots causes the postage to always come out to more than a first-class stamp. Getting the right amount on the envelope becomes problematic.

Caserta’s plan for Santa Clara ballots eliminates the problem. Oregon already has an all mail-in voting system that produces increased turnout and saves taxpayers money. Some people still like to vote at the polls, just as some people still like to read a physical copy of the newspaper. But times are changing.

At some point, we should all be able to vote on the Internet using our thumbprint. Such a system should be utilized first in Silicon Valley—to date our election system and management have been the laughing stock of the state. Santa Clara County has used cumbersome voting systems and made poor decisions for their employees, many of whom are unfairly blamed for poor results.

But good management, like that seen in the city of Santa Clara under City Clerk Rod Diridon Jr., matched with good policies like the current proposal from Caserta is a model for what can be achieved.

The current Board of Supervisors for Santa Clara County is addressing the issue. Supervisors Joe Simitian and Cindy Chavez are both looking into reforms. A strong proposal would be to adopt the Caserta plan countywide.

The anemic turnout of voters is hurting our democracy at all levels. Anything government can do to make the process easier is a positive. Take notice: Santa Clara is showing the way.


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