Election rule changes worthy of consideration

Published 2:00 pm Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Is it possible to do your civic duty and lie at the same time?

Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann believes the answer is yes, and he is trying to do something about it.

Armed with disconcerting absentee voting data, the state’s top election official is looking to reform the method by which some voters participate in elections.

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Among the items on his legislative agenda for the 2012 session are the establishment of an early voting system and changes to the rules regarding absentee voting.

Being “out of the county” on Election Day is one of the more popular reasons given for needing to vote absentee. Hosemann, however, believes that many voters know they will still be in the county on Election Day, but are simply voting absentee to avoid the hassle of lines at voting precincts or other issues.

“We’re asking people to lie,” Hosemann said about the absentee voting application process during a recent visit with The DAILY LEADER editorial board.

To support his argument, Hosemann points to a list of 20 counties where the absentee voting accounted for more than 10 percent of the overall turnout in the first August primary. Neighboring Franklin County was among that number, with an absentee vote turnout of 10 percent.

To combat this trend, Hosemann is advocating a form of early voting in which people would be able to vote using electronic means beginning 15 days before Election Day. He envisions the voting machine being in a secure location, such as the circuit clerk’s office, and functioning like another voting precinct.

While early voting would not eliminate absentee balloting, Hosemann also has some ideas that he contends would curb potential abuse there. He said he has noticed trends of a single person serving as a witness on a high number of absentee ballots.

Also part of his legislative agenda is a measure to restrict the number of absentee ballots one person may witness to 10. Hosemann has pitched the idea to state lawmakers in previous years, but it has not been passed.

Hosemann’s ideas surely are not the cure-all that would bring about the ultimate goal of elections that are open and honest and attract the best voter turnout possible. Nevertheless, they do deserve serious consideration as a possible step toward that worthy destination.

Elections are where we the citizens are allowed to have a say in choosing who our leaders will be. Lying has no place in that process.