Guest Commentary

The city declined all-mail voting-- but unfortunately, the issue will return

It appears that the Tucson City Council has negotiated a deal with Eastbourne Investments.

They plan to put in a huge development that will include a tract of KB Home houses, a retail complex (complete with a "big box") and, of course, some University of Arizona "park" of some sort. It will be located in the South Park neighborhood near Park Avenue and 36th Street. Hey, at least we got rid of those dang Republicans on the City Council who suck up to KB Home, change zoning for rich developers and allow more of those awful "big box" stores! (Har, har, har, chortle, chortle.)

While most council business goes on as usual, our elected representatives were flirting with a new and very wicked idea--mail-in voting. Thankfully, in the course of the Dec. 19 meeting, the idea was officially abandoned ... for now. Unfortunately, mail-in voting, like "light rail" and herpes, never really goes away.

Remember, too, that if they do it in the Emerald City (Portland, Ore.), the Democrats will want to do it here.

This time, the discussion avoided the real issue, and focused on pragmatic problems such as compliance with the Americans With Disabilities Act. Frankly, I would be tempted to tell Washington, D.C., to shove it--but that's just me. The city clerk is faced with the huge headache of bringing all polling places into compliance. Of course, if most of the polling places went away, so would the headache. Expect further support from Kathy Detrick the next time around.

The elephant in the voting booth, about which no one is speaking, is fraud. You know, we have had pens, paper and a postal system for more than 200 years, yet we go to the voting booths to cast our votes. Why is that?

Here's a hint: When you are in the booth, you are alone with the ballot; you mark it, and then you put it in a locked box that is guarded by people from both parties. It's called a "secret ballot." Secret ballots are important, because they ensure that your vote reflects your choice, and not that of your spouse, employer, union representative, landlord, etc. Get it? Why do you suppose that the poll worker will not touch your ballot and makes you put it in the box yourself?

Some say that making voting easy would encourage more participation. We already have mail-in voting on demand with absentee ballots--but we know it's not about participation.

The motor-voter law made registering as easy as breaking wind, and now taxpayers from Hyannis to San Francisco are spending big bucks trying to remove fraudulent registrations from the voter rolls.

A number of ACORN (Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now) people were indicted in St. Louis for submitting fraudulent registrations. (It's still against the law, even for Democrats.) Voting by mail is an invitation for similar shenanigans a little further along in the process. There is an ACORN chapter in Tucson, by the way.

There was an election recently in which voters resoundingly defeated a ballot initiative that would have created a statewide mail-in voting scheme. In light of this fact, one would imagine that mail-in voting would now be the "third rail" of Arizona politics. Facilitating fraud must be one heck of a motivation.

One last thing, and this is something that every American knows at a gut level (Tom Danehy will back me on this): Voting with a secret ballot is the most important civic duty that a citizen can perform. It is a right that should be exercised with some gravity. It is not the equivalent of mailing in a magazine subscription--five years for $50, two years for $30, one year for $20, Libertarian, Republican, Democrat. If you increase the turnout 50 percent with voters who do not take the decision seriously, have you improved the process, or cheapened it?

The next time that this mail-in vote stuff comes around, call your council representative, and tell him or her to knock it off, and get back to greasing the skids for developers and building "big boxes" on the southside.

About The Author

Jonathan Hoffman

Jonathan Hoffman moved to Tucson from Connecticut in 1977 and never looked back. He attended the UA, ran for City Council Ward III in 2001, and made regular contributions to the Guest Commentary section of the Tucson Weekly for over five years. He helped launch the Southern Arizona News Examiner. He is a former...
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