Notes from the Other Washington

I lived (and voted) in Washington State for a year, which exposed me to two ballot features completely unfamiliar to my Northeastern upbringing.

First, all ballots are by mail in Washington. There’s no looking up polling places, standing in lines, or scheduling time. Better still, you don’t actually have to post the ballot: there are special collection boxes at civic buildings like the police/fire station.

Second, party affiliations are listed simply as preferences under candidates’ names. This sounds like no big deal — until you see it on the page:


Prefers Democrat

Washington is hardly a bipartisan utopia, but the promise on the ballot is different. “24/7” means something different than “most of the time.”

It’s time for voting by mail to become standard practice nationwide. Party preferences might be nice, but voting by mail needs to happen now.

Some people will cry wolf about fraud; their real concern is much more likely to be higher legitimate participation.

And, speaking of chicanery, beware bad design — as with party preferences, it’s amazing what a difference a little [benign] intent can make.