Alaska editorial: Nation needs a single, presidential paper ballot

Posted: Thursday, December 07, 2006

The following editorial first appeared in the Ketchikan Daily News:

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It's time to campaign, not for a candidate, but for a ballot. One person, one vote; one president, one ballot.

Every registered voter should be able to vote for president without worrying about machines' integrity, local politics, or the vagaries of various states' systems. That is the case in Alaska, where, on presidential election day, any registered voter can vote in the presidential election even if they aren't in their town on voting day.

That's not true elsewhere. We can understand why it would be unwieldy for large population centers to include out-of-staters in their balloting.

But as a result, in 2004, numerous out-of-state Alaskans, including college students eager to vote in their first presidential election, didn't get to vote because their absentee ballots hadn't arrived in time.

Some people who don't vote in any other election vote in the presidential races. While we could wax eloquent on the benefits of voting local, we can't escape that reality. If it's true in Alaska, it must be truer in states where people feel more unconnected to their representatives. That's a separate issue, though; the fact is that thousands of Americans who don't otherwise vote do cast a ballot for president of the United States.

With all the questions about electronic voting machines' accuracy and security, let's vote by hand and count by hand.

Certainly, counting by hand will take longer than counting by machine. But in the 2000 election, with machines, we learned we could wait as long as it takes to find out who won a presidential election. We also learned that depending on the state, the ballot could be confusing and even if the machines counted right, some people believe they ended up voting for a candidate they didn't mean to support.

We can wait for workers to count paper ballots - the actual ballots, not a "paper trail" from an electronic machine.

And a clear ballot with only the presidential and vice presidential candidates on it doesn't leave room for voter misunderstanding.

Let's ask Congress to make it so: One person, one vote for president, one hand-counted ballot nationwide for at least that race.

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