Prop Zero
The Starting Point for Commentary and Coverage of California Politics

With Mail Ballots, Why Not Vote With Friends?

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    NEWSLETTERS

    If recent trends hold, a solid majority of Californians who vote in the current election will vote by mail. We're told they do this because they like the convenience of taking their time and voting at home.

    But why vote at home by yourself? Mail ballots represent a mostly untapped opportunity for people to get together, connect with each other over political discussion, and vote together.

    So here's a suggestion: have a mail ballot party.

    Invite friends over. Heck, if you want it to be really interesting, invite a few enemies over. Have some food and drink, talk over the issues, and then fill out your ballots as you sit down together.

    Not only would this be more pleasant as a way to vote, you'd be getting to know people better.

    Plus, you'd be more likely to return your ballot. (Significant percentages of people who request mail ballots don't turn them in on time.)

    There's healthy social pressure when you have a party to get the thing filled out.

    And yes, I can hear the howls of those paranoids out there who are worried about fraud and are demanding a return to the secret ballot.

    To that, the proper response is: get over yourself. There's nothing illegal about this. And mail ballots, if used to bring voters together, represent a return to an American tradition of viva voce, or voting in public.

    Americans used to vote in public, marching or parading to the voting location and speaking their votes, or at least marking irregular ballots. Election Days were carnivals in those days -- an opportunity for citizens to be together.

    California is a place with relatively low levels of connection and engagement. People don't know their neighbors well. They aren't that involved in the community. They aren't well connected to politics. The mail ballot, used socially, offers an opportunity to do better in all these areas.

    Lead Prop Zero blogger Joe Mathews is California editor at Zocalo Public Square, a fellow at Arizona State University’s Center for Social Cohesion, and co-author of California Crackup: How Reform Broke the Golden State and How We Can Fix It (University of California, 2010).

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