11 November 2008

Election Improvements

A panel is considering election improvements in Colorado. A few suggestions:

1. Provide mail-in ballots with postage pre-paid. It is cheaper in the aggregate, it is cheaper to clerks who must otherwise pay postage due on insufficient postage ballot which costs more than a metered rate for all ballots returned, and it doesn't place a burden on the voter that looks like a poll tax.

2. Allow election day voter registration. It is proven to improve turnout. And, now that we have an online statewide voter registration database and an ID requirement, this doesn't open the door to fraud.

3. Allow felons on parole to vote. Voting helps people re-engage with society promoting rehabilitiation. It reduces the odds of technical parole violations or election crimes due to confusion about the law. And, bureaucratically, it is easier to let everyone who is not currently incarcerated vote, than it is to enforce a limitation on voting for a very small percentage of the total electorate. It also better fits the spirit of the state constitutional provision, even though the state constitution has been held to allow parolees to be prevented from voting.

4. Limit challenges to voting eligibility based upon age and citizenship. Any challenge to eligibility to vote based upon age or citizenship should be required to be lodged at least three months prior to an election, or within three months of registering to vote for the first time in the state, whichever comes later. An age and citizenship of the driver's license bureau that someone is a U.S. Citizen aged eighteen or older should be conclusive proof of those facts. In the case of a person who has previously voted, a challenger who contests age or citizenship should be required to post a bond for the costs and attorneys fees incurred by the government and the person challenged if the challenge is unsuccessful, and should further be required to compensate the person challenged in the amount of $100 if the challenge is unsuccessful.

5. Prepare monolingual ballots in multiple languages from which a voter may choose when there are ballot issues on the ballot. A bilingual ballot is longer and more complicated to read and complete for all readers when there are ballot issues on the ballot. Physically longer ballots also cost more to mail and take more time to scan. This is particularly true when there are ballot issues on the ballot. While Spanish language ballots are required by law to be available and should be available upon request, it is not necessary that every ballot have both English and Spanish language descriptions of ballot issues.

6. End write in candidate options when someone is running for office; omit unopposed candidates from the ballot. Write-in candidates win elections so rarely that it makes national news when they do win. Not a single candidate on the ballot for county, state or federal office in Colorado, or for federal office nationally, won this year or for many, many elections in the past. A futile right is a useless write. But, allowing write-in candidates to run adds to the complexity of the election process and complicates the ballot. The possibility of a write-in candidate is also the main practical reason that unopposed candidates appear on the ballot, which also makes ballots longer and more complex without improving the ability of the public to make a decision.

7. Require candidates in races with three or more candidates for a single office to obtain a majority to be elected; hold a runoff otherwise. I discussed this change in a previous post-election post. Among its many virtues is that it frequently reduces the need for a recount in a close election where there is a third party candidate.

8. Fix whatever's wrong with Boulder County. This year, for the second time in a row, Boulder's vote counting process was seriously FUBAR, lagging far behind the rest of the state. Somebody needs to get them new equipment, new elections officials, or both, to prevent this from happening again.


Dave Barnes said...

Like #5.
Hate #6.

Andrew Oh-Willeke said...

Why do you hate #6?

Dave Barnes said...

I LOVE the ability to write in candidates. Don't care whether they win or not. It is the principal.

Similar to reason that I always vote NO on every judge.

We need to have more UNEXPECTED results in our elections.