June 25, 2008 · Updated 9:45 PM
"Let the people vote at the pollsThe Island County Auditor's intentions were understandable in closing some polling places, but the outcome is not acceptable. If people want to go to the polls to vote they should not be stopped from doing so.Auditor Suzanne Sinclair, dealing with an ever-tightening budget, sent a letter to voters in 12 Island County precincts last week announcing that henceforth they would have to vote by mail. No choice. Their polling places would be closed on primary election day, Sept. 18, and thereafter. The action would save the Auditor's Office the expense of paying poll workers and in some cases of renting a hall for the polling place.Sinclair was taking advantage of a recent state law declaring that such action could be taken in precincts where fewer than 200 voters go to the polls to vote. In a county where over 50 percent of people vote by mail anyway, that turned out to be a lot of precincts. On South Whidbey, the affected precincts include Langley 1, Clinton, Double Bluff, Freeland and Possession. Although they were notified by mail, no doubt many citizens in those precincts will be shocked when they go to the polls and nobody is there.The auditor should be protecting the right of any citizen who wants to go the the polls and cast a ballot. It's an American tradition that should be promoted, not undermined.True, mail-in ballots are growing in popularity nationwide. Like TV dinners, they're fast and convenient. Also like TV dinners, they're tasteless and bad for the public health. It's only a matter of time before a massive scandal breaks out over mail-in ballot fraud; then election officials will start backtracking on this bad idea.We need polling places to give sanctity to the voting process. The poll workers, ballots and American flags are an institution that must be retained. Parents should take their children to the polling place when they vote so the children don't relate voting to junk mail. It's a sacred duty and should be performed in a suitable location.Promote polling places, don't eliminate them. If the Island County Auditor is short of money, the Island County Commissioners should make it a priority to give her enough to keep all the polling places open. "