Thursday, October 30, 2014

Democracy at your convenience

Can someone explain to me why our votes need to be counted by computers rather than people?

What’s wrong with a paper ballot on which citizens place an “X” next to the names of the candidates for whom they wish to vote?

Is that too old-fashioned? Are today’s poll judges too lazy to count paper ballots? Or too dumb? Is it because Americans no longer understand basic arithmetic? Is it because computerized vote-counting machines ostensibly deliver results quicker so busypeopledonthavetowaitsolong to find out the results? Is it necessary or, more important, prudent, to rely on machines to do something as important as count votes?

And what’s with allowing people to vote early rather than have to wait until Election Day?  Thirty-three states now allow citizens to vote early. Here in Florida the polls have been open in most counties since October 20th for the upcoming election and they’re open ten hours a day (eight on weekends) at taxpayer expense. Proponents claim early voting gives voters the opportunity to cast ballots at their convenience in case they have something more important to do on the actual day set aside for the election. That’s a flawed argument from the get-go. Democracy isn’t about convenience. If they could, the hundreds of thousands of Americans who have perished defending our right to vote freely would say it was inconvenient for them to die so you could go to the beach if Election Day turned out to be warm and sunny.

What’s more – no surprise here – the trends from all this early voting are already being made public, which will impact the results. In Florida, today reported that 45 Republicans have voted for every 38 Democrats – a sure sign for Democrats to turn on more advertising, staff up the phone banks and wire more money to local banks to pay people to vote. In North Carolina, according to the Washington Post, more Democrats have voted than Republicans, indicating the GOP needs to turn on the money spigot. Is revealing the percentage of voters from each party who have voted in advance of the election in the other 17 states fair? Is it intelligent? Is it the right thing to do? 

And what do you think about not having to present identification to cast your vote? If I lived in certain states, I could simply show up at the poll, give the judge the name of someone I knew wasn’t going to vote (or, better yet, someone I paid so I could vote in his or her place) and vote for whomever I chose. Americans need IDs to drive their cars, borrow library books, see doctors and for dozens of other routine transactions. But do we need one to exercise our most precious right? The president and attorney general – officials sworn to protect and defend the Constitution of the United States -- think not and millions of Americans, including many who are reading this right now, agree with them. If you’re one of them, WTF is wrong with you? Have you no common sense?

Want another example of convenience voting? In Oregon and Colorado the polls are closed. Permanently. It was simply too much trouble to find judges, set up voting machines, install exterior signage, yadda yadda. Residents of both states now vote by mail.  What proof, if any, do voters in those states have that their votes will arrive much less be counted?

What I find upsetting is that nobody – our elected officials or the voters who put them in office – apparently cares enough to question the joke we have allowed voting to become.

It’s madness. Complete and utter madness.

But, of course, it’s awfully convenient and that, after all, is what’s important.

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