I can probably count the number of elections I’ve voted in, in person, on one hand.
I’ve spent most of my adult life living outside of the district I’m registered in, so my county’s election board and I have an increasingly friendly relationship. (OK–that’s putting it a little dramatically. They’re always professional. But since I contact them once a year, without fail, I feel that we’re on pretty friendly terms. But I’m also sure that’s a one-sided relationship.)
Having voted absentee so many times, there are some things that I just love about the process.
Lack of Ads
In many cases, when I download my ballot, my ballot is the first time I’m confronted with many candidates’ names. I haven’t been hearing the ads for months on end. None of the straightforward, basic, please-vote-for-me ads, and (merciful heavens) none of the attack ads that both parties throw around for the opposite candidates.
I can look at my ballot with a relative sense of innocence.
Granted, I am 40 years old, so my innocence when it comes to politics is somewhat limited. But, I’m grateful that the candidates haven’t been shoved down my throat for the last few months!
Time To Be Better Informed
As I haven’t been beaten over the head with ads and phone calls, when I sit down with my full ballot, I can calmly go over each candidate, check their stances on the issues. Because I receive my ballot a week after applying for it, I can easily have a week or more to go over the candidates’ websites, checking where they stand on issues I care about.
Truth be told, though, I printed it off this afternoon, and voted within a half hour. But, during that half hour, I was at my ease to find out where my candidates stand.
Sure, I’ve known who I would vote for as my senator and national representatives for weeks. But state representatives? County clerks? Should Judge so-and-so be retained in office?
The times I’ve voted in person, I had no idea who these candidates were and where they stood. Under pressure to get out of the voting booth and make space for the next voter, I either made a hasty decision or left certain fields blank.
But, voting from the comfort of right in front of my computer, I can quickly look up each and every candidates’ website and make informed decisions–as I vote.
To be honest, given this benefit, I think it would be great for all of us to vote absentee!
Sure, I have to request an absentee ballot weeks before the election, download it, print it off, sign a waiver agreeing that I understand my ballot will not be secret (those mailing it in still get a secret ballot), and email it back to the election board.
But I can do all this whenever I want–even in the middle of the night, in my pajamas!
It’s so stinkin’ easy!
(Granted, physically going to a polling place is pretty easy, too–especially for those who take advantage of early polling sites . . . so none of us has any excuse not to vote!)
For voting abroad, there are a few websites that facilitate the process.
To request an absentee ballot, I’ve always just emailed my county’s election board. For some counties, that may be all it takes. But this year, I was re-directed to the Fedral Voting Assistance Program. I filled out some forms with them, and then my county election board took it from there.
While I was looking for information on candidates, vote411 and Ballotpedia had some information on candidates. In some cases, this was the most information I had to go on. Trust me, that’s not much information.
Fortunately, candidates running for national or state-wide office usually take the time to make their own websites, and these are simple, great resources. Do we really need months and months worth of ads and attack ads to help us make up our minds? No. Check out candidates’ websites, see where they stand on the issues, and vote.
We make this way more complicated than it needs to be.
To the Candidates
A word to the candidates of less-contested positions: there are plenty of webhosting programs out there, and it is really quite affordable and easy to start a website. As a candidate, please have your stance on whatever issues you’d be facing in your elected position and some background information on why you’re qualified for this position.
If I can manage a website, you can, too.
I was disappointed to see the number of potential county representatives who didn’t even invest in this most basic way of promoting themselves! (All kinds of create-your-own-website companies offer FREE websites. Please use them!)
Although I love the ease, convenience and almost-unlimited time at my disposal for voting absentee, I can’t lie–I do miss those “I Voted” stickers they hand out at the polls!
Whether you vote from the comfort of your computer or have to wait in line for hours, do whatever you can to vote whenever you can–not just for the big elections, but for all of them!
The “I Voted” photo is courtesy of Casey Robertson on Unsplash