Tuesday, May 10, 2005

Big Changes for Voting in 2006

by Kyle Michaelis
The state legislature approved LB 401 on a 39-0 vote yesterday, paving the way for a host of reforms intended to increase voter turn-out. The changes will allow (according to the OWH):
• Voting at satellite sites, such as supermarkets, college campuses and other nontraditional locations.

• Conducting elections by mail in counties with fewer than 7,000 residents.

• Casting votes by Internet or faxed ballots for members of the military and other Nebraskans living overseas.

• Permitting people who grow up overseas but are U.S. citizens to register to vote in the same Nebraska county as their parents.

• Dividing fast-growing precincts into two or more parts between the statewide primary and general election.

• Allowing people who lose, spoil, destroy or never receive an absentee ballot to cast a provisional ballot on Election Day or get a replacement absentee ballot.
All in all, these seem to be pretty good ideas. Making a provisional ballot available to those who fail to cast their absentee vote is especially reasonable and necessary. As for elections by mail and even internet voting for those in the service, that's all well and good so long as necessary safeguards are in place to prevent the world of fraud that becomes possible with both.

Of course, the idea of people voting at the mall or grocery store is the one that gets the most attention. Technology makes this fairly radical notion possible, but it's ultimate merit may be somewhat questionable. Sure, it would be great to bring in more voters, but when does the expense become too great attracting those who refuse to make the small investment of their time that democracy demands?

In satellite voting, officials will use a laptop computer to check a voter's registration against a state database. Officials then print the proper ballot for that person's precinct. Considering the lengths to which the state is going with such a system, it seems stupid that the far more obvious and undemocratic barrier to voter participation, our 10-days-in-advance registration requirement, hasn't been similarly addressed.

The time has come for same-day voter registration in Nebraska, allowing people to register at their polling place before casting a provisional ballot. In this age of immediate background checks, this is entirely doable and should, in fact, already be in place.

Opening up voting without doing the same of voter registration is just poorly reasoned on the part of the state legislature. Lucky for them, it's never too late to correct that. They're trying everything else - might as well try something guaranteed to make a difference.


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