Voting: it’s your right and obligation

If you don’t vote, others will speak for you

By Morf Morford
Tacoma Daily Index

As we all know from the headlines for the past year or two, foreign actors have continually tried to, (and were sometimes successful in their attempts to) interfere in U.S. elections, and election officials across the country expect more of the same kinds of attempts in 2020.

Amid similar warnings from U.S. intelligence officials, members of the U.S. House and Senate have continued to debate legislation aimed at securing and standardizing the nation’s elections process.

But while Congress has been reluctant to adopt some of the key policy reforms contained in those bills, many of the main improvements sought by election watchdogs at the federal level are already in place in Washington state.

Washington state — which runs its elections entirely by mail — already uses paper ballots that can be reviewed and audited after an election.

As other states dither, argue and even arrest people over voting access, and terms like “voter suppression” hit our headlines, Washington state has avoided almost all the controversy by having paper/mail-in ballots for many years.

Requiring the use of paper ballots was a key reform sought in an election-security bill that passed the U.S. House this past summer, as well as in a bipartisan proposal introduced last year in the U.S. Senate.

Using paper ballots avoids some of the issues that can arise with using voting machines that merely record voters’ choices into a computer system.

As you may have noticed, in Pierce County, each ballot envelope has a unique barcode and tracking system, which voters can use to monitor their ballot’s progress via an online portal. This barcode is matched with a signature at the time of each election.

Not every county uses this two-factor authentication – in fact at least ten counties in Washington admit that they don’t.

You can confirm your own voting record – and make sure every vote you cast was in fact counted by contacting your local election office.

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If you are new to the area, or are just reaching voting age, or if you are inspired to finally register to vote, you can register to vote here – https://voter.votewa.gov/WhereToVote.aspx?org=Pierce.

When election day rolls around, you can follow the latest Pierce County results here – https://piercecountywa.gov/6573/View-Election-Results.

If you have any other questions about our local election system or just want a better sense of how our election process works, this is a good place to start – https://piercecountywa.gov/6548/Contact-Pierce-County-Elections.

Information regarding statewide elections can be found here – https://www.sos.wa.gov/elections/.

If you are a teacher or work with schools in any capacity, any students in the K-12 system across the state can get accustomed to the idea of voting by taking part in the mock elections. Details can be found here – https://www.sos.wa.gov/elections/mock-election/#/landing.

If you know of anyone approaching voting age, as of July 1, 2019, new legislation allows 16- and 17-year-olds in Washington to sign up as future voters and be automatically registered to vote when they turn 18. More details can be found here – https://www.sos.wa.gov/elections/future-voter-program.aspx.

Statewide there are 4,490,042 registered voters.

The next election day is November 5, with ballots mailed out on October 18.

Whatever your political interests or leanings, I’d guess that your motivations for voting are stronger and deeper than they might have been a few election cycles ago.

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Some fun election facts

In the United States, individual states decide how and when to register voters, which has often led to confusion. Thirteen states allow voter registration on Election Day.

In Canada, there is no deadline to register to vote. Voters are allowed to register when they arrive at the polls on Election Day.

In France, citizens are automatically registered to vote when they turn 18 years old. In Sweden, eligible voters are automatically registered when they turn in their tax registration rolls.

Oregon is the first and only state in the United States to use automatic voter registration.

Some countries, such as India, Greece, Ukraine, and Colombia, have a “None of the Above” option on their election ballots. In the United States, only Nevada offers a “None of These Candidates” option.

Over 22 countries around the world require their citizens to vote. Citizens who do not vote are typically subject to penalties, such as fines or community service. As you might expect, voter turnout in these countries is typically high.

Approximately 64% of the United States’ voting-age population is registered to vote, compared to 91% in Canada and the United Kingdom, 96% in Sweden, and nearly 99% in Japan.

The developed countries with the highest voter turnouts are Belgium (87.2%), Sweden (82.6%), and Denmark (80.3%).  The United States ranks lower than most countries at 55.7%.

In 1893, New Zealand became the first country to allow women to vote.

There is no legal or Constitutional requirement that America’s elections are held on Tuesdays. Many countries, such as Greece, Australia, and Brazil, hold their elections on the weekend to encourage higher voter turnout. Traditionally, elections in the United States have been held on Tuesdays because, in the past, that allowed farmers to travel to polling places. Tuesdays did not interfere with the Biblical Sabbath or with market day, which, in many towns, was on Wednesday.

George Washington spent his entire campaign budget on 160 gallons of liquor to serve to potential voters.

In 16 U.S. states, it is illegal to take a photo with your ballot. Doing so can result in a fine or even jail time.   (1*)

Saudi Arabia has had only seven elections in the last 80 years. In Saudi Arabia, women finally won the right to vote in 2015.

 

(1*)    In Washington state it is perfectly legal. For other states, check out the details here – https://www.vox.com/policy-and-politics/2016/10/25/13389980/ballot-selfie-legal-illegal