By James Buckley
Election day-week-month is finally here.
All the filled-out ballots will be harvested and dropped into boxes throughout the state, including here in Santa Barbara County by Nov. 8. Before we get into the grit and nit (I hate clichés) of the subject matter, let’s take a moment to reflect upon what we’ve done to the electoral process.
The whole idea of a “protected” or “private” ballot is encapsulated by the in-person method of voting.
Not only are candidates or their proxies prevented from handing out fliers or other campaign material within a certain number of feet from the entry to a polling place, but voters are given their ballots with protective covering on them so that when they are finished voting — in secret — they can then place a sheath on their choices to prevent anyone nearby from seeing who and what they’ve voted for or against.
This method was adopted even before we became a constitutional republic because property-owning colonial males (the only sector of society that could vote at the time) were required to state orally who or what they voted on, in full view of other participants (similar to an Iowa caucus).
The intimidation factor was ever-present, and the pressure to vote a certain way could be overwhelming, so eventually secret paper ballots were adopted.
Now, take the current manipulated machinations we’ve drifted haphazardly toward. We’ve returned to the easily corruptible 18th-century way of voting. Today, someone … anyone … can “help” someone else fill out a ballot, place it in an envelope in full view of nearby friends, relatives or, hey, even a candidate or two. A discussion may follow as to why that particular vote was wrong or whatever. That same ballot could then be taken out at any time during the month-long voting period and “dropped” into one of many boxes created for the occasion.
Afterward, naturally, those boxes are emptied into bags which are then either counted right away or stored for post-election analysis — oh, and tabulated.
Why this is a good thing baffles the mind, but it is easy to see why certain people would support such a convoluted voting schedule.
In today’s world, what with computers and the algorithms fed into them, savvy politicians and handlers know exactly where their votes and voters are and now have a complete month to gather “volunteers” to go door-to-door, building-to-building, dormitory-to-dormitory hospital-bed-to-hospital-bed, in some cases prison-to-prison, to collect the ballots they know will strongly favor their candidates. Even better, they know where not to go to collect votes that are likely to favor the opposition.
And it has become rather simple to discard votes you believe may help your opponents. Just don’t place them in the bag.
Oh, and once those mail-in ballots are separated from the envelopes they’ve been placed in, there is absolutely no way of knowing who filled it out or where it came from. So, if a recount is demanded or ordered, that beautifully clean ballot can be counted any time but can never be validated one way or the other.
It’s a crummy system and one that must be scaled back to a one-day or weekend-only in-person voting procedure.
As wily Democrats were once inclined to say about abortion: Mail-in ballots should be safe (though in this case, available) but rare.
James Buckley is a longtime Montecito resident. He welcomes questions or comments at firstname.lastname@example.org. Readers are invited to visit jimb.substack.com, where Jim’s Journals are on file. He also invites people to subscribe to Jim’s Journal.