Ten Reasons to Vote Absentee or Mail-In Vote

In his speech after signing the Voting Rights Act in 1965, Lyndon B. Johnson said, “The vote is the most powerful instrument ever devised by man for breaking down injustice and destroying the terrible walls which imprison men because they are different from other men…You must register. You must vote. You must learn, so your choice advances your interest and the interest of our beloved Nation. Your future, and your children’s future, depend upon it…”

While Johnson was primarily addressing black American men in this speech, the message is appropriate for any eligible voter in the United States. Voting in this country has a long history of violence, chaos, suffering and–ultimately–most citizens of the United States now enjoy the rights our foremothers and forefathers fought so long to give us. But having the right is not enough. We must exercise it.

The most convenient way for many voters to exercise their right to vote is to mail in their ballots. Here’s 10 reasons why:

  1. It’s easy. And who does not like simplicity? The word “easy” is flouted by advertising campaigns, and it is also how many political campaigns appeal to our sense of patriotism. I am now using this word on you. It is easy to dislike someone who wants to take away women’s rights or farmer’s rights or the right to bear arms or the right to fair and equal healthcare. Its just as easy to express your disdain, dissatisfaction, disillusionment or any other dis- by voting. It is also easy to express your desires through voting. Yes, I want more funding for road projects. Yes, I want my child to have the same access to education as other children. Yes, I want to–most recently and famously in some Colorado cities (#weedloveCO)–the right to purchase recreational marijuana. Vote yes, vote no, vote your conscience, vote your values, vote your beliefs, and do it through a mail-in-ballot. Why? Because it’s easy.
  2. For some reason, voting is like a fire drill–it seems to come on cold days when it will interrupt you from the most important projects, meetings, or dozens of other activities that seem more important. Yet, preparing for a fire drill is important. Knowing where the fire exits are, rehearsing the navigation of a tumult of bodies by having designated areas of safety, and cultivating mental preparation amid chaos can save lives. Voting can be just as important. Is it a matter of life or death? It depends on the bill or candidate. But, yes, possibly. With a mail-in ballot, however, you can skip all the inconvenience of taking off work, trying to figure out what precinct you’re in, driving to that precinct in inclement weather, standing in line in inclement weather, and the amount of time it takes for all that fuss (the longest I stood in line was an hour and a half, and at least forty-five of that was spent outside, and while it was very pleasant to chit chat with others of my ilk who just had to have the “I voted!” sticker, my hands were shaking by the time I reached the sign in). With mail-in ballots, you don’t have to wait in line, fumble for your driver’s license, wait for hours only to find out you’re at the wrong precinct (that happened to me once, too), or figure out what the heck to do with your children (if you have them) while you perform your patriotic duties. Perform them from home!
  3. Democracy and liberty are not the same thing, thought they are not mutually exclusive. Democracy is the individual’s right to elect officials to vote on their behalf. Liberty is the individual’s rights (for the love of Pete, read the Bill of Rights and read it now!). Democracy, however, is dead if we do not vote, and if we do not vote, we have no liberty. I know it’s an old song, but people have died for our right to vote in American elections: general, primary and special. And the vote for all Americans (save D.C. and some felons) did not come swiftly or easily. But it’s here now, though some folks continue to fight. Do not allow that fight to be in vain. If conventional voting is not easy, then exercise the freedoms that so many people have fought for (including Thomas Jefferson in our country’s initial debate over having a Bill of Rights) and mail in your ballot. Side note: every time I vote, I think of Alice Paul and other women being force-fed in prisons as they fought for my right to vote.
  4. The most difficult part of voting by mail (after signing up, which is about the same process: mail, fax or email your request) is ensuring your address is correct so you receive your ballot. Once more, I’m going to tell you how easy changing your voting address actually is. This past October, I was fretting about going to the DMV and changing my address. I didn’t want to wait in line. The whole point behind mail-in voting was to avoid a line. Then my mother said to me, Go online and change your address. It’s really easy.” And it was. My ballot came, I voted. Problem solved. I didn’t get a sticker, but I did get to be part of the 36.6% of Americans that voted in the midterm election. Note: some states will require you to mail or fax in your address change.
  5. Absentee voting was primarily established for military members. During the election of 1864, for example, the Union and Confederate soldiers could not simply set down their guns, race to a polling precinct, and then rush back to resume fighting. As with the internet itself, the military has established several useful practices that civilians can enjoy. Many civilians, however, might be unaware that they have this right. You probably do (see below for eligibility in your state). Absentee or mail-in voting, therefore, does not have to be limited to those it was originally intended to serve.
  6. Shows like The Voice, America’s Got Talent, The X Factor, American Idol, etc. have a high voting turn out. Why? Because it’s easy to vote for a singer by calling or texting or Tweeting or Facebooking or using the special app on your smartphone (or all of the above). While I’m sure a thinktank somewhere is devising a voting app for government elections, it hasn’t happened yet. Therefore, the best alternative is to mail-in vote. To replicate the popular television voting methods (and make voting fun), keep your ballot close to you during election season. When pollers or petitioners or canvassers (i.e. another opportunity to update your address) come to your door, listen to them. See what might be a nuisance as an opportunity for a candidate or political party to perform for you. Many of those pamphleteers actually believe in what they are selling (go to a caucus some time and talk to them, and you’ll see). The same goes for all the infomercials (or campaign-o-mercials) that either extol or discredit a bill or candidate. Keep your blue book near you and research the options online. Make it fun. Then, as you go about your day, fill in a bubble.
  7. Along those same lines, mail-in voting allows you more time. Voting in a booth can sometimes make a you feel like you’re taking the ACTs with a gun to your head. The knee-jerk reaction may be to vote your party, fill in yes or no to all answers, deny or accept all re-elections for judges or sheriffs, and then only sort of feel like you’ve done your patriotic duty. If you mail-in vote, you can kick back on your sofa, drink a hot beverage and really think about your choices.
  8. With several elections between today and the 2016 Presidential election, now is the time to prepare and practice. Yes, midterm and general elections are important, but a lot of citizens have their eye on the Super Bowl vote, the World Series vote: the vote to determine who will lead our country for four years. But there are sixteen games in a regular season of football, and one hundred and sixty-two games in a regular baseball season, not to mention the pre-season practice and games. That’s a lot of preparation before getting to the almost-Big Show. One of the largest reasons mail-in voting does not work is because citizens are unfamiliar or uncomfortable with the process. Again, now is the time to get comfortable. Check out the sites and articles that show you how to properly mail out your ballot (and make sure you attach the appropriate postage). While only three states (including Colorado) offer mail-in ballots for all elections, there might still be some local and state elections that will help flex your mail-in or absentee muscles.
  9. Not comfortable with the U.S. mail? A closet procrastinator? Hate paying postage or just used your last stamp to pay your electric bill? Honestly do not know which bubble to fill in until the last minute? No problem. This last election, I had to walk in my ballot, because I am all of the above (except I rarely run out of stamps, although my available Forever stamps generally exhibit a cartoon, an old musician, or some artist, and hardly seem suitable for my mail-in vote). If your state engages in early voting, you can walk your mail-in ballot to any precinct any time after early voting begins. If not, many precincts (again, generally any, so long as have your mail-in sheath) provide a drop-in box for people just like us.

    liberty-statue-198887_640

    (Credit: Pixabay)

  10. When adding all the above reasons together, mail-in voting becomes one more responsible and reliable way to have your democracy and liberty honored. Indeed, if you live east of Kansas, mail-in voting becomes more difficult, but 36.6% of people is not a country, not even the western half of the country. Think well and hard about that number: 36.6%. Statistically, 40% of Americans believe in “strict” creationism. Does that represent you? 40% of Americans believe they will contract Ebola. Does that represent you? 40% of Americans admit they would give up their freedom to end terrorism. Does that represent you? 40% of American voters won’t vote because it is a hassle. Does that represent you? If yes to the last question, examine your reasoning for being part of that 40%; if that is not you, reflect on the fact that less than 40% of this country just made our congress and senate what they will be for the next two years. Lives will be changed because of that small percentage. If you were part of that 36.6% who voted, then pat yourself on the back for voting and then send this Ten Reasons to someone you know who did not vote (especially if that person will not stop complaining about the results of the 2014 election). If you were part of the 63.4% of people who did not vote, ask yourself if you are happy with how a little over a third of the country voted on your behalf. If you now feel sufficiently inspired, go to one of the many links provided here and register to vote, register to vote absentee, and/or update your address. Then, when you are faced with the ballot in the next election–what looks like a scantron on steroids–show this country what you, one of its beloved citizens, wants and where you want this country to go.

*Not all states allow absentee, early or mail-in voting, and some require a reason. Check the list or the map to see if you are eligible.