There was a lot of agreement with that nostalgia -- and awareness that this wasn't the way the world seemed to be going. Californians all, we wondered at the fact that all elections in Oregon are by mail. But we too have long had the option of voting by mail if we choose without giving any reason at all.
The growing predominance of voting by mail scares me. It's all very well for habitual voters. But for folks who are just getting into to the process, first timers, or people who because of their race or income aren't so sure they belong in our democracy -- they get a boost from feeling Election Day as a sort of civic participation festival. I've seen this in action while canvassing low-income Latino precincts in California's Central Valley and the sometimes mean streets of impoverished Oakland. I've written about what researchers call "convenience voting" here and here.
Given these misgivings, it is exciting to see the Obama campaign creating situations that overcome the isolated individualism of the early and vote-by-mail voting experience. Obama supporters aren't expected to do their pre-Election Day voting alone. In states where there are "early voting" polling places, Obama organizers are bringing a party to the voting area. As reported by Sean at 538.com:
This week, the New York Times reported how the campaign is getting it done in Colorado. Obviously campaigns love early voting. The Colorado campaign is hoping to get 50 percent of voters "banked" before November 4. This guarantees that no late news can sway weak supporters. Further it will mean only half as many people have to be found and pushed to the polls in the last twelve hours. And voters get to avoid inconvenience and long lines. But the campaign also knows it has to give voters something back -- the feeling of collectively practicing democracy!
Awesome organizing this -- what a campaign can do when it has 3.1 million donors and vast sums to spend on facilitating people to people contact, in addition to making its essential advertising buys. Bravo!