Tucson officials are crowing about the success of all-mail voting in Tuesday’s council election, calling it a “historic” turnout.
The 45 percent voter turnout for a city-only election was the highest in recent history, surpassing the previous record of roughly 41 percent in 1999 in which the ballot included approving the Rio Nuevo multipurpose facilities district (if only we could go back in time and tell those voters how it would turnout).
But in 1999 voters still had to traipse down to the polls and color in a bubble on a ballot. In the election just past, voters didn’t even have to do that. The postman brought them their ballot.
All dear voter needed do was color in a few bubbles, figure out how to refold it, seal it, sign it, put a stamp on it and drop it in the mail.
How simple, right?
Yet consider what 55 out of every 100 Tucson voters did with their ballot: Rather than take a few minutes to exercise their precious franchise they instead decided to throw it in the trash.
Some radical could go down to city hall, take out an American flag and set it afire and the city’s patriots would come unglued. The howls of outrage would be legion.
Yet the ballot is just as precious as that flag and just as hard fought and died for over the centuries.
How dare someone throw it in the trash?
Yet that’s what more than 116,000 Tucson voters did in October when their ballots arrived in the mail.
Not to pick on Tucson voters, though. There were several school district budget override (tax increases) voted on Tuesday. Districts that extend into the city also conducted all-mail voting to avoid confusing voters. The trashed ballots there are worse than Tucson.
In Vail, 59 out of every 100 voters trashed their ballots. In Flowing Wells, 70 out of every 100 voters did so but the worst by far were the voters of Sunnyside.
There, 89 out of every 100 voters put their ballot in the rubbish along with the coffee grounds, eggshells and snotty tissues.
What do they get for taking their vote out with trash? Their taxes raised. A plurality of the 19 percent who did bother to vote approved an $88 million bond that will be paid back through a property tax increase. (Strangely, they also rejected a budget override. Go figure.)
See what happens when you don’t vote?
All-mail voting is the latest gimmick to get Americans to actually practice democracy, something we insist nations around the world practice so they can be fair and just to their people just like us.
Yet in a study of voter turnout globally for major national elections between 1945 and 2001, America ranked 120th out of 169 nations. Australia was No. 1 with a 94 percent turnout.
Any improvement in voter turnout is to be applauded, to be sure. But when it comes to not voting, maybe it’s better voters just stay home (like 76 out of 100 Marana school district voters did Tuesday) than to literally throw their votes away.