I admit it. I'm one of those holdouts, among the 24-percenters who stubbornly continue to go to polling places and cast our ballots for whomever or whatever on election days.
It just seems more citizenlike and official than licking the flap of an envelope, attaching a stamp and then dropping my ballot into the curbside mailbox.
And I like walking out of the polling place with an American flag-bearing sticker that reads "I voted."
Darn right, I did and I do. You voters-by-mail miss out on that little prize.
The problem is, 76 percent of Stanislaus County's registered voters who exercised their constitutional right during the June primary did so by mail. Yet the county is obligated by the state to continue maintaining live polling places. Thus, 754 one-day workers will need to be trained and paid to manage the 167 polling places for Tuesday's election. Space must be rented for each. Voting machines need to be carted out, set up and in working order.
Lee Lundrigan, the county's clerk recorder and registrar of voters, estimates it will cost taxpayers about $1,000 for each polling place, or roughly $167,000, in an election that will cost about $1 million in Stanislaus County.
Election laws prohibit her from simply eliminating the physical polling places, even though during the November 2011 election, two precincts drew only two voters each and 18 other precincts counted 15 or fewer.
Certainly, there have been some mail-only elections. But except in some of the smallest cities, only district elections (fire districts, utilities districts, etc.) can be conducted solely by mail. Elections involving the "wide" offices citywide, countywide, statewide and nationwide require polling place and by-mail options. In terms of the work involved, it's like running two separate elections simultaneously.
"If everyone voted at the polls, the election would be over quicker," Lundrigan said. "If everybody voted by mail, it would be over quicker. The problem is they vote both ways."
Her office staff is busy handling the nearly 50,000 votes already received out of 138,000 by-mail ballots issued and will continue to deal with those up to and beyond Election Day.
And after that day passes, they'll need to audit procedures and results from every polling place to ensure the voting was conducted accurately and fairly.
In a presidential election year, and with local congressional and state Senate campaigns that have been downright nasty, officials expect a high turnout. She has only five full-time staffers in the elections office. Lundrigan can pluck four others from the clerk- recorder side of the building. She said she has 14 more positions she could fill if the county could afford it.
Voting by mail is a matter of convenience. It's not a reflection of technology one of those "computers changing our lives" things. The vehicle for sending and receiving the ballots the Postal Service has been around since, oh, 1775.
If anything, voting by mail reflects changed lifestyles and priorities. People are busy. Many don't work in the same city where they live. Some leave for work before the polls open and either don't get home before they close at 8 p.m. or are too tired to do so. Voting by mail is simply easier on every front.
But the state legislators who are elected to their jobs have done little to simplify the process by modernizing election laws.
By-mail ballots must be mailed to voters 29 days before the election, but you can still register until 15 days before. This year, 4,400 citizens registered on the last possible day. Elections officials already had sent ballots to many of them, and the ballots were returned by the Postal Service. The new registrants needed to be matched against the returned ballots before new ones could be issued.
Others' new registrations are mailed directly to the California secretary of state's office in Sacramento, which is slow to sort and forward them to the respective counties. Consequently, Lundrigan's office on Tuesday received 200 new registration forms from the state, all of which must be verified.
Collectively, this is insanity though not as insane as the campaigns themselves.
At some point, legislators should rethink election laws to make the process more efficient and less costly. Allow counties to go to all-mail ballots.
We, the 24-(and waning)-percenters, have the most to lose. We might have to concede our "I Voted" stickers and buy a "Forever" postage stamp instead.
Jeff Jardine's column appears Sundays, Tuesdays and Thursdays in Local News. He can be reached at email@example.com, @jeffjardine57 on Twitter or at (209) 578-2383.