Saturday, October 18, 2008

My Vote FOR Absentee Ballot Voting in New Jersey

Pardon me as I diverge from my normal trend of recognizing and writing about South Jersey places, and instead dabble in a more topical issue to NJ... absentee ballot voting.

Within the past few years, it became legal to vote using an absentee ballot for any reason, as is noted on the NJ State Department's site. I think this is a tremendous step in the right direction. Personally, I can't wait until we have email ballots, but I recognize that would be a very challenging task to accomplish. But who knows... maybe that will happen some day.

Anyway, I have several reasons as to why I am in favor of allowing anybody to vote by absentee ballot in NJ.

First, I hate going to the polls, personally. Especially in a year like this when there is likely to be a high turnout, which results in long lines to stand around and wait, parking problems at the voting center, and generally feeling stressed because you'd rather be doing something else. This setup is a detterent to anybody who wants to participate in democracy.

Second, by having the ballot in front of me (which I currently do, having just completed it), I can dig down deeper and analyze who the candidates are or what the issues are all about. For example, if I had shown up at the polls, I likely would have had no idea what to vote for regarding this year's two public questions. But with a relatively quick Google search, I found this handy PDF from the League of Women Voters, which I probably never would have seen had I just shown up at the polls. (Or if I had, it would have been too short notice for me to read.) This helped me understand the impossibly archaic language of the questions and allowed me to vote more intelligently (well, as intelligently as I could get at any rate. Sorry, I digress!). I also was able to learn more about the individual candidates by doing searches and reading articles and websites about them. Having this freedom to search on the internet and research each candidates' platforms and backgrounds enabled me to feel better about my selections, rather than just winging it at the booth.

Third, I'm a little leary on these electronic voting machines. I kind of like having a paper trail or something a little more reliable than these machines which limit the backup evidence available in case something goes wrong or a recount is needed.

Last, did you ever go to the polls and just feel bad for the volunteer poll monitors there? Usually it's a group of senior citizens who spend most or all of the day checking people in and directing them to the poll. It's great that they give up their time to do this, but it is an incredibly thankless job and by the end of the day they all look worn out. I'm happier to pay a few cents to let the mail carrier do his/her job and deliver my vote for me. (Added bonus: with the high cost of gas, this saves me a tad on my gas money and arguably more environmentally sound.)

The only downside that I can see to voting by absentee ballot is that you have to send the ballot in before Election Day to guarantee that your vote is counted. This means you may miss out on any last second changes or updates that voters at the polls might know about. This is one of the reasons why I'd like to see email voting, thus minimalizing the time it takes to get one's ballot in. Time will tell if this issue will be resolved.

But all in all, when it comes to elections, I am very much FOR absentee ballots in New Jersey, and I'd encourage everybody to consider doing the same next year. Happy voting!

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