Wednesday, October 20, 2004

Absentee Voting, Continued

Since I have to submit my ballot electronically by fax, due to the lovely circumstance of my never having received the Official Envelopes, I need to waive my right to secret ballot. To do this requires an affidavit, so Monday I have an appointment with a Notary Public to get that sworn. It will cost me at least $49 Canadian to do so; it will be another $2.25 to get there by the TTC; I will then have to spend more money to fax it, since I have no personal access to a fax machine.

One of the interesting issues on the ballot in New Mexico right now is a constitutional amendment to expand a special veteran's tax exemption from those honorably discharged veterans who served during an armed conflict to those who served, period. You can find the proposed amendment and arguments pro and con here (scroll down to Constitutional Amendment 4). I lean in favor of it, but am not entirely decided. Of the arguments there presented against it, I think #1 is the strongest. #2 is just silly, since there isn't a state or municipality that in fact doesn't extend some sort of special recognition or compensation to individuals for service to the nation. Conceivably one could argue that tax emptions are not a good way to provide such recognition, but that would be an entirely different argument. #3 is false, I think, since the fact that there's no longer a draft doesn't make actual service any easier or less to be respected. #4 depends on what I regard as the utterly absurd proposition that the federal government does an adequate job in its provision of benefits for veterans. #5, taken strictly, would require that we never make changes to the tax code that would shift tax burdens at all. #6 is stronger, but I see no reason why tax emptions should be based solely on need with no regard to merit. #7 is exactly right, but isn't necessarily an argument against the exemption. #8 is the second strongest argument. So the against vote would rest on #1, #8, with the possible addition of #7 and maybe #6. All the arguments for, on the other hand, are good; although they actually turn out to boil down to just a few arguments.

There's also a proposed constitutional amendment for changing the name of the New Mexico school for the visually handicapped to "the New Mexico school for the blind and visually impaired." Surprisingly, this turns out to be the most difficult amendment to evaluate; it seems a small issue, but changing a name turns out to have more potential ramifications than one might think. Part of the reason it is difficult is perhaps precisely because it's a small issue. It's small enough that it seems silly to vote against it; and yet it has potential ramifications that make one doubt that it's a good idea.

Back to absentee voting: apparently people who got the Official Envelopes nonetheless face a few difficulties themselves, since some of their ballots are accidentally being returned.

I should say, that while I do make a big deal about the rigmarole involved in Absentee Voting, this is largely because it is fun to do so - it is something of an adventure, and I do think it's worthwhile to let people see what's involved, particularly when they have an easier time of it but are for no good reason deciding not to vote. I have no complaints against the New Mexico Bureau of Elections beyond a wish they would explain things better (I finally figured out why they sent me my ballot by email - they need to encourage electronic submission because it reduces the possibility of litigation); I think it's impressive how much states do to make sure Americans abroad can easily vote. It's not as if it's easy to hold an election including those abroad while at the same time limiting voter fraud; and I look dimly on those who go around suing states simply because they didn't take the trouble to pay attention to election law before election day. (I suppose, though, that there's a sort of backhanded comfort in seeing that Christmas and Easter aren't the only days people think about only once a year.) Nothing I say on absentee voting should be construed as any sort of hint that the Land of Enchantment is "disenfranchising" me in any way, even when I dwell on the difficulties of absentee voting. Despite some lack of clarity in communication, they are doing a good job.

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