Vote by mail is one of the best new things in a state that has launched more than its share of innovations. It’s hard to believe that Oregon has been casting mail ballots for some 12 years, after voters approved the initiative by a wide margin in the 1998 election.
In an article published last Friday on the Seattle-based Crosscut, Jason Mercier of the Washington Policy Center identified an aspect of the Oregon system that we easily take for granted.
Washington also votes by mail, but unlike Oregon, Washington allows ballots to arrive past 8 p.m. on Election Day. The result is that counting ballots in Washington races goes on for days. In 2008, the race for governor between Christine Gregoire and Dino Rossi was contested for weeks following Election Day. This year’s Washington governor race between Rob McKenna and Jay Inslee promises to be just as close.
Oregonians were farsighted to establish – at the outset – a clear finish line of 8 p.m. on Election Day. And election officials have wisely educated voters and reinforced the availability of ballot drop sites and the firmness of the 8 p.m. deadline.
Mercier noted that Washington legislators will be reluctant to establish such a firm deadline – not wanting to deny a voter’s franchise.
The lesson is that if a state is going to innovate, it should do so systemically and thoroughly.