Absentee voting process in need of improvements

Published 7:00 pm Sunday, March 24, 2013

Absentee voting has begun for Brookhaven’s upcoming city election, and once again, there is the ever-present chance for problems with processing the paper ballots come election night.

Absentee ballots can be filed at the city clerk’s office through May 4 for the Democratic and Republican Party primaries, which are scheduled for May 7.

For those who may be out of town on election day, absentee voting provides a means of ensuring an opportunity is not missed to help select our new city leaders.

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Absentee voting is a valuable option, but it is all too often used as a way simply to avoid standing in line at the polls. As a result, the numbers of absentee ballots filed locally have become unnecessarily high in recent years.

In last year’s special election for circuit court, the 1,900 absentee ballots cast represented nearly 12 percent of the total votes. That percentage was a hefty increase from the just-over 7 percent of absentee votes filed in the previous November’s countywide election.

Problems with absentee ballots can surface on election night, as each paper ballot must be handled and fed one at a time into a tabulating machine.

Moreover, Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann has expressed concerns about the potential for voter fraud with mail-in absentee ballots.

As we have argued here before, having a voting machine at the circuit clerk’s office – or in the case of a municipal election, the city clerk’s office – for absentee voting would greatly streamline the process by minimizing the number of paper ballots that must be hand counted on election night.

In this way, the paper ballots and mail-in system could be reserved for the citizens who actually require it – those who are infirm, the military and other residents who work out of state.

The absentee voting process is an issue that needs to be addressed, preferably sooner rather than later, and definitely before the next statewide election three years away.