Mail Ballots Won’t End Complaints

At age 90, my mother-in-law doesn’t get around as well as she once did, so the past few elections she’s chosen to vote by mail.

So too does a globe-trotting friend of mine who routinely seems to leave the country during even-numbered years. The lucky guy.

My mother-in-law and my globe-trotting friend have plenty of company. In the August 2012 Hawaii primary election, almost half of all those who voted did so by mail or by early walk-in. In the November general election, just under 46 percent of the ballots cast were by mail or early walk-in voters.

I don’t like either method.

I prefer to drive up to the local elementary school, preferably with wife or one of my children, sign the voter’s book, receive my numbered ballot, take my place in one of the canvas booths and make my choices. I don’t even mind standing in line a few minutes until it’s my turn to feed my paper ballot into the voting machine.

I like to watch my neighbors going through the process as well, for in their biennial trip to that school cafeteria to vote, they physically manifest their faith in a democratic system of government, the faults of which may sometimes outweigh its virtues, but which provides a mechanism for renewal – a vote of the people.

But last week Gov. Neil Abercrombie expressed his support for eliminating polling places and conducting Hawaii’s elections by mail instead. He cited the shortages of paper ballots at many polling places Nov. 6 as one of his concerns.

“You cannot have a situation,” he intoned, “in which people believe that their candidate may have suffered adversely as a result of mechanical or administrative snags.”

Or worse, outright voter fraud.

Why not? Forget the doddering scribbler’s fondness for physical displays of democracy. We need to ensure the conspiracy theorists that our elections are well-managed and totally uncorrupted.

Good luck, Governor. For as long as I can remember, losers have screamed, “Fraud! Fraud! The election was rigged!”

In Hawaii, I’ve heard Frank Fasi scream it at fellow Democrats.

I’ve read articles in which then-Republican Party chairwoman Linda Lingle implied it in the Office of Elections.

And the nobility of the state’s editorial pages have called for investigations.

We’ve called in the League of Women Voters, Common Cause and other organizations noted for high moral character. They found no chicanery.

We’ve switched the elections office out of the lieutenant governor’s office where it might be defiled by a partisan LG.

Now some of high moral character suggest putting it back into the LG’s office so that an elected official, the reigning lieutenant governor, could be held accountable at the ballot box.

Not getting enough paper ballots to the polling places certainly constitutes failure on the part of the Office of Elections. It should be investigated.

But going completely to mail-in voting will hardly quell post-election critics, the vast majority of whom lost or strenuously supported someone who lost on election day.

Did no one listen to Karl Rove rave on election night?

We can mail them in or walk them in, cast them on election day or beginning a month earlier.

It won’t matter.

Someone will suspect the result.