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Should Polling Places Be Eliminated?

A general election can cost a county $1.5 million, a bill that could be greatly reduced if voting was done entirely through the mail. Meanwhile, turnout rates are highest among counties that conduct elections entirely by mail.

A general election can cost a county about $1.5 million, a sizeable chunk of cash at a time when most jurisdictions are looking at every corner of the budget to cut costs.

But what if all voting was conducted with mail-in ballots instead of at the polls? Such a move could save up to 50 percent, according to a just-released Sonoma County Grand Jury report. And just-released data from the secretary of state’s office shows that 65 percent of voters voted by mail in California's June primary election, according to the Bay Citizen.

Counties that conduct elections entirely by mail had the highest turnout, according to a statement [PDF] issued by Secretary of State Debra Bowen’s office. According to the datathe June primary were by mail. The county had a 41.5 percent turnout rate, among the highest in the state. 

It can cost a county up to $6.38 a voter to process a ballot filled out at a polling place, but only $3 per voter to process a ballot that has been mailed in, the grand jury study found.

Mail-in rates are rising statewide, but some voters say they enjoy walking into a polling place and filling out the ballot at the voting stand. And don’t forget the “I Voted" sticker, which many proudly wear to show that they actively engage in the democratic process.

Still, setting up the voting stations and transporting the ballots to the county elections office is costly and time-consuming. Ultimately, however, any change to how elections are conducted would have to occur through the state legislature.

Would you support moving to an all vote-by-mail system? Why or why not? Let us know how you feel in the Comments below. 

Alan M. Farnham July 20, 2012 at 01:12 PM
We should encourage the state to go to vote by mail - and include that "I voted" sticker in the envelope!
Max Meyers July 20, 2012 at 04:19 PM
If it means even one less voter, then no. When it comes to elections, the primary policy should be about how to encourage voter turnout, not ways to save money.

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