Permanent absentee voting preferred by many in county |

Permanent absentee voting preferred by many in county

Low voter turnout is a favorite subject for hand-wringing among those who worry about the direction of the American republic, but this year’s experience with absentee ballots in Nevada County may hint at a way toward greater voter participation.

This is the first year that California voters can become “permanent absentee voters.” This means they needn’t apply for an absentee ballot before every election. As many as 10,000 people in Nevada County may seek permanent absentee status this year.

Already, the state’s rules on absentee ballots encourage their use. For all practical purposes, anyone who wants to vote absentee can do so for about any reason. All she needs to do is apply for a ballot before a deadline a couple of weeks before the election and then make sure the ballot is returned in time to be counted.

Absentee voting, once the province of those who were ill or expected to be traveling on Election Day, increasingly is used by those who simply like the convenience of voting in their own home, in their own time.

Some may bristle at the thought that a growing number of Americans can’t find the time on Election Day to exercise the vote. And others may be saddened at the decline of the civic-spirited day in which neighbors greeted one another on their way to the polls in the morning.

Far more important, we think, is the fact that a portion of those who choose to vote by absentee ballot otherwise might not vote at all. The widest possible exercise of the franchise helps ensure that good decisions are made. The commitment made by an absentee voters is no less – nor any greater – than those who go to the polls on the first Tuesday after the first Monday.

The decision of thousands of Nevada County voters to seek permanent absentee status is a strong statement that local voters want to vote in a way that is more convenient than traditional methods.

If we want more people to vote, let’s make it as easy as possible for them.

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