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Commissioners tally 3-0 for vote by mail
PORT ORCHARD Financial considerations trumped tradition Monday, as the Kitsap County Commissioners approved a resolution closing the physical polls and turning the county into a vote-by-mail zone.
My family votes at the polls, said North Kitsap Commissioner Chris Endresen immediately before the vote. It makes us feel that we have done our duty. Recently Ive talked to a lot of people who vote by mail and they feel just a little more patriotic. But while I feel that we should all go to the polls on Election Day and it should be a national holiday, its not cost-effective. And we need to spend every tax dollar as efficiently and wisely as we can.
The vote was unanimous, with Central Kitsap Commissioner Patty Lent and South Kitsap Commissioner Jan Angel both saying preserving the tradition was not worth the approximately $1 million it would cost to keep the polls open.
Kitsap County Auditor Karen Flynn, a longtime advocate of voting by mail, said there were three reasons to support the resolution.
For example, an estimated 86 percent of Kitsap voters already mail in their ballots. Equipment required by new federal law will cost $732,000, with training and maintenance costs extra. And maintaining two separate elections increases the possibility of mistakes.
The current system introduces another opportunity for error, she said. We shouldnt be spending this money for something that 14 percent of people will use.
Before the meeting, the county printed up flyers and took out newspaper advertisements to encourage participation. This didnt seem to make a difference in the outcome, as all three commissioners were leaning toward passage of the resolution prior to the meeting. And the plurality of negative comments didnt change any minds.
While Endresen mentioned nostalgia and tradition as the proposals major drawbacks, its opponents had different concerns. The criticisms included privacy, security, fraud, and the rights of the homeless.
One participant said she would never vote again if mail was the only way to go, while another suggested that the matter be put up for a vote.
The law goes to great lengths to prohibit electioneering at polling places, said Marie Turnberg of Port Orchard. At the polls you come in, make your choice with no influence from anyone else. When you vote at home there are no precautions for this. Your TV may be on, your radio, newspaper, your pile of mail or you spouse over your shoulder. Maybe even a candidate or lobbyist at your door.
Your 18-year-old doesnt have time to vote, she said, so you get him to sign the back of his ballot and do his voting for him. Your aged mother cant see to vote so you do the same for her. These are benign situations. Imagine less benign ones political party members who help voters in nursing homes or college dorms.
While the boards decision was monetary, many speakers felt this shouldnt be an issue. The dollar sign, said Poulsbos Faye Henden, shouldnt become more important than the integrity of the process.
Patrick Griffin-Hall of Port Orchard said the money saved was not worth the disenfranchisement of more than 1,000 homeless people in Kitsap.
The postman, not being an elections official, holds no accountability, said Cris Shardelman of Poulsbo. If a voter throws his ballot in the postal trash, then someone else can vote it.
Voting by mail is a lot easier, said Kris Danielson of Port Orchard. But making something easier doesnt necessarily make it better. And sometimes when you make something easier, you take it for granted.