I’ve seen an increase in the last few years in alternative forms of voting — alternative to waiting in line on a November Tuesday. I suspect that the people encouraging early and absentee voting are well-meaning individuals working toward the laudable goal of increasing legal turnout. It reminds me of another instance of people with a laudable goal.

I remember the feature stories, in the 1990s, about doctors’ learning to treat pain as a primary target, as opposed a symptom patients were expected to manage or endure. This well-meaning approach, coupled with agressive marketing of drugs, was the origin of today’s epidemic of opiate abuse.

In the same way that well-intentioned doctors were at the root of a miserable plague, the ridiculous election fraud that’s been unmasked in Bladen County, North Carolina, depended on the current trend of providing tools for more-convenient voting. As the theft is described, the operatives preyed on confusion and ignorance surrounding these obscure forms. They were caught, in this place, today. They won’t be tomorrow.

Increasing voter turnout is an excellent idea. We should focus on practical improvements to our civic norms — such as polling places that are conveniently located and ADA-accessible, with manageable lines — rather than trying to create new norms that involve new, unanticipated vulnerabilities.

Ian Murphy


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