The right to vote is one of the building blocks of democracy. It’s one of the key ways “We the People” participate in our self-governance. Voting enables us to reflect our values in the representatives we choose and the issues we face. Simply and clearly, in a democracy our vote is our voice.
Because voting is so foundational, we intuitively, and it turns out correctly, believe that any improvement that increases voter participation and efficiency while protecting the sanctity of each vote does not just merit consideration, it likely merits our strong support.
That wasn’t the case here in Orange County on June 13, when the Board of Supervisors rejected a proposal from the Registrar of Voters Office to begin an urgently needed overhaul of the county’s voting system. More astonishing and offensive, the five elected supervisors did so without a single word of discussion.
The new vote center model proposed by Neal Kelley, the registrar of voters, and the dedicated workers in his office would optimize the voting process for voting by mail, which increasingly is the way Orange County voters want to cast their ballots. Recent figures show that 60 percent of participating county residents vote permanent absentee and that percentage increases every year.
Yet the vast majority of the county’s resources, both financial and human, committed to voting go toward setting up 1,200 polling places across the county that fewer and fewer voters are utilizing.
The vote center model puts the emphasis on voting by mail. Instead of hundreds and hundreds of polling places, a number of strategically placed vote centers across the county allow people to still vote in person or simply drop off their ballots. Vote center models in other states have been an unqualified success story, increasing voter participation by making the process much more convenient and lowering costs.
And in Orange County, moving to the new model would have had the added benefit of saving between $10…