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Time to pull the plug on poll voting

Post by Kim Bradford on Sep. 5, 2009 at 5:13 pm with 5 Comments »
September 5, 2009 8:15 am

This editorial will appear in Sunday’s print edition.
Poll voting’s time is up, sad to say.

Pierce County has gone to heroic lengths to keep tradition alive. But this once-proud civic custom is but a shadow of its former self – and an expensive one at that.

Would that it weren’t so. Voting at the local school or fire hall (“as God intended it,” we once wrote, not entirely in jest) seemed like a rite of passage in a democracy.

Voters older than 35 probably still remember how they felt when they stepped into a voting booth and marked their choices for the first time. It’s a thrill you don’t get filling out a form at the kitchen table.

But as Americans have taken to bowling alone, many of them have also decided they prefer voting alone.

Notwithstanding last November’s long lines, which were prompted by a historic presidential election, use of poll sites has been steadily declining.

In last month’s primary election, 3,000 voters chose to go to the polls rather than cast their ballots by mail. It cost Pierce County $75,000 – or $25 a ballot – to accommodate 4 percent of the turnout.

The electorate has voted with its feet. Mail ballots are by far the preferred method these days. Pierce County held out as long as it could – longer than any other county in the state – but the two-headed voting system is quickly becoming a luxury the county cannot afford.

County Executive Pat McCarthy, facing declining sales taxes and other revenue, is drawing up a “pretty draconian” budget for next year. Poll voting is not a part of it. McCarthy, a former county auditor, says she can’t justify setting aside $150,000 for poll voting when staff and programs are being eliminated.

She has a fight on her hands. The County Council has opposed efforts to convert to an all-mail voting system in the past and has already signaled opposition to McCarthy’s pending proposal. Councilman Dick Muri says budget problems aren’t a good reason to end poll voting.

Money would not be a good reason to scrap poll voting if it remained a vigorous, popular part of the election system. But the reality is that Pierce County polling places are more cherished than chosen these days.

Rather than keep poll voting on life supports and watch it continue to wither away, Pierce County ought to let it go and get on with mourning the passing of a fine institution.

Leave a comment Comments → 5
  1. I take my kids with me to the polls to show
    them how important voting is. They are proud
    to go with me. It will be sad to not have that
    in their lives.

  2. papasan says:

    All in the name of saving those dollars. Here’s an idea, why not have “Vote By Phone”. We could just phone our votes in to a machine in Jamaica (I hear that the labor is dirt cheap there). We would save a bundle. Why with the savings, we could send all the hard-working elections staff on a retreat to…. Jamaica. Then they could meet the person that runs the voting system.
    Even better. Why not just stop voting on stuff??? Great idea, that. If we just stopped bringing up all these silly issues like Gay rights and voting for silly stuff like school levies, then we wouldn’t spend ANY money at all. We could lay off EVERYBODY and save MILLIONS in tax dollars. Why we could finally put Tim Eyeman out of work.

  3. ldozy1234 says:

    I should be shocked that the TNT has taken this stance and promotion of this smoke and mirrors con but I’m not.
    The issue of poll closure if addressed HONESTLY is a simple one- put it to the vote. It’s the people choice and ONLY resolved via the peoples vote if we had officials operating with integrity.. to choose to make this decision in any other manner is publicly telling voters to “kiss off”.
    What appalls me is the TNT promotion of the smoke job from the Exec. office.
    Its never been about fiscal responsibility- McCarthy’s actions to date have proven this AND been reported by you all. Its not about the % who still vote at the few polls McCarthy ( as auditor)left standing.
    Its about an Exec office that has decided that the people are sheeple and do not have the right to decide this matter. It’s a continuation of the Ladenburg legacy and the TNT’s promotion of the party line on any issue of merit. Jokes on us- new leaders in govt, new editors at TNT but it still is the same game.
    Kim, I’m really disappointed.

  4. jimkingjr says:

    Idozy1234- I think it is you offering up smoke and mirrors. What makes “put it to a vote” the only way to “honestlly” address this issue? As much as I have supported poll voting as an option- too much influence from Peter Callaghan for too many years, I guess- the stark reality is that so few voters go to the polls anymore it just isn’t worth it. And do you really believe that if put to a vote that overwhelming majority that votes by mail will vote to keep spending money on keeping polls open for those few who won’t get with the program?

  5. ldozy1234 says:

    placing it on the ballot gives ALL voters a chance to decide this. At least a majority of votes ( mail in or otherwise) places the decision where it rightly and solely belongs- in the hands of the voters. And no- IMHO, I do not believe a majority vote will keep polls open. But the decision will be made openly and the way it should be- by the voters.
    But blindly fall over and permit the Exec. to now use the budget excuse after all that’s been done to push her personal goal on this issue( what was it? even just a couple of months ago she quietly sent a lobbyist to Olympia to try and push them to make this decision for Pierce?)…….that’s what I mean by smoke and mirrors. Because of THAT ” taint”- the only honorable solution is for the Exec and the Council to bow out and leave this to the voters. End the games, end the excuses.

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