Officials Mull Move to All-Mail Elections

Secretary of State Mike Coffman and Sen. Majority Leader/unofficial deputy SOS Ken Gordon are considering following Oregon’s lead and switching Colorado to all-mail elections. Gordon is conducting a poll on his Web site to gauge public opinion on the subject. As of Monday morning, 70 percent of respondents at least somewhat support all-mail elections. Only 14 percent are strongly opposed.

Oregon Director of Elections John Lindback gave a presentation on his state’s all-mail elections process last week during a meeting co-chaired by Coffman and Gordon.

“Vote-by-mail elections are more efficient, they’re easier to run and people like them,” Lindback said.
More than anything, he said, people like the convenience of all-mail elections. One Oregon county recently had 25 statewide and 50 local ballot initiatives. Long ballots are a big reason why people prefer to vote in the comfort of their own homes, he said.

Coffman asked Lindback if the lack of a voting booth leads to voter intimidation.

“In the seven years that Oregon has been doing vote by mail, my office hasn’t received a single complaint about voter intimidation,” Lindback replied.

Gordon said in an email that many voters in Colorado already choose absentee ballots.

“Currently we conduct election day elections at precincts or vote centers but about half of Coloradans choose to exercise the option of voting by mail,” he said.

Lindback went through a list of benefits of all-mail elections. Turnout in Oregon increased when they made the switch. Participation in the 2004 presidential election reached 86.5 percent, and Lindback said there has also been a jump in turnout in small local elections. Voting by mail also improves access, he said. For example, some people find it difficult to make it to the polls because of disabilities or job and childcare commitments.

However, as required by federal law, Colorado counties have spent millions on new electronic voting machines. Critics say switching to all-mail elections would result in huge financial losses on the machines. Others against such a move cite concerns about fraud and losing a sense of community gained by voting at a polling place.

Lindback said Oregon has protections in place to guard against fraud, such as well-trained employees who check ballot signatures against voter registration card signatures.

Go here for a list of FAQ’s about Oregon’s all-mail elections.

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