Vote early

Damn those late absentee ballots!

Here it is a week after the election, and we're all sitting around wondering who the next mayor is going to be. All to protect a few lazy voters from having to walk to their polling place and cast a ballot.

Here's the solution: Change the postmark deadline for absentee ballots to one week before Election Day. We can still accept completed absentee ballots at the polls, so no voter is denied the right to vote. Problem solved.

If only life were that easy. In recent years, the state Senate has twice blocked legislation making that exact change, thus preserving the franchise for our laziest citizens.

I don't know why. It's not like any of those slackers are going to bother organizing against them.

Late absentee counts hurt primary candidates in deadlocked races—they can lose up to two weeks from the six-week campaign period between primary and final elections. Late primary absentee counts waste the time of elections officials who should be gearing up for the final election.

More importantly, after-the-fact tallies also screw with what we in the business call the "transparency" of the system. In plain English, if things look muddled and chaotic, people lose faith in the process. Hey, Slade Gorton voters—didn't you wonder about those last-second "special ballots" that gave Maria Cantwell the most recent U.S. Senate election? Hey, Al Gore voters—did the Florida situation convince you that elections are fairly conducted in this country?

By the way, I'm really getting tired of the argument that all manner of ineptness and treachery in government is cool because "it makes things interesting for you reporters." Hey, we pay taxes too—and, as citizens, we'd benefit from official competence, however boring it made our work lives.

And frankly, all this waitin' and hopin' screws with the election night parties, which are just about the only element of an election that's any fun. This is a serious problem—let's fix it.

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