posted on Nov, 6 2006 @ 02:33 PM
We are a funny people, here in America. I guess that is because we are a cross-breed of myriad elements, some good, some not so good, some downright
bad. In Europe, they call that mongrelizing of the populace.
The 2000 presidential election was settled in Florida. The electoral dispute centered around a statute requiring a recount of votes where the
winner’s margin was 1% or less, and another statute that required the Secretary of State to announce the winner in 14 days. The 7 member Florida
Supreme Court - all Democrats - said the re-count statute took precedence over the announcement statute. They reasoned a few days delay in announcing
the winner would pale to the potential harm to the democratic process arbitrarily cutting off the recount would have.
The US Supreme Court decided to take the case, the first and only time in American history, and after a short debate, ruled 5 to 4 - 5 Republicans
versus 4 Democrats - the Florida recount must stop on the 14th day. They justified this on the traditional grounds for deciding between conflicting
laws, giving priority to the last law enacted, which was the 14 day announcement law. We were told Bush43 was 537 votes ahead of Gore when the count
ended. There remained between 15,000 and 30,000 uncounted votes. Never counted. Florida’s electoral vote put Bush43 ahead by 5. 271 to 266 and 1
To address this unsatisfactory condition, Congress appropriated $3 billion to the states to update voting machines to eliminate the paper ballot’s
“hanging chads” - punch outs that didn’t fall out - which was the downfall of Florida’s recount. Mostly wasted, it turns out. Whether the
2006 election will be free of claims of fraud or mechanical or electronic failures we’ll know a a week or two.
The real and hard lesson we learned was that every state in America has serious problems in voting and especially in vote counting. Some states
actively try to prevent voting by certain voters - invariably minorities - and some use equipment which brings into question the reliability or
accuracy of counting the votes. Some new electronic machines are said to be open to hackers, as in the particular case of Diebold which sold machines
to a lot of Republican controlled states. Those are serious charges and cry out for an independent inquiry to restore voter’s confidence their vote
actually is cast and counted. A paper trail is offered most frequently as a cure. A paper trail. What’s so hard about that?
American electoral practices are so out-moded, so lacking in uniformity, so difficult to interpret and close to impossible to enforce, that the Jimmy
Carter Center has refused to monitor American elections! I’m from Ky and I can relate that in any election decided by 5,000 or fewer votes, it was
really impossible to know with certainty who really won. We accepted that state of undemocratic affairs with resignation. At least I did, maybe
because it was the Dems who most often won the close ones, and I was a strong supporter of the Dems. I traded short term gratification over the long
term benefit of a fair election for a very poor reason.
Because I am convinced any nation that was so technologically advanced in 1969 so it could send and bring back 12 men (18) in 6 missions to the Moon,
can fix the electoral system anytime it has the political will to do so. So why don’t we have the political will? Why for example, has America
always - as far as I know - held elections on Tuesdays, as bad a day in the week as you can find, if your motive is to encourage popular
participation. Many so-called third world countries have voted on Saturday and Sunday, for generations. When our labor unions were strong that
people knew what LGW and IBEW meant the unions opted to get a half day off with pay. The power elite was glad to give that up as a half day’s pay
meant northing to them. It kept millions of people who need democracy from doing the one thing every 2 or every 4 years the politicians care about.
Iceland - 600,000 voters - recently returned to paper ballots. Americans are too much technologically oriented to ever do that. The two good reforms
passed by the post 2000 Congress was 1) the paper ballot alternative at every voting booth, which would be available and equally important, 2) the
opportunity for any person denied the right to vote should be allowed to cast a paper ballot to be counted after it is determined if he or she was
indeed eligible to vote.
What’s my advice? The best thing we could do in America is to create an electoral commission that is truly non-partisan, to oversee the entire
voting and counting process. Take elections out of the hands of partisan officials. As it already is in almost every country on the planet.
But to get to the more likely things to happen: 1) Loosen voter registration, let a voter register at the time he votes. Bar code every voter to catch
repeaters. 2) Reschedule elections to the first Saturday and Sunday in November. 3) Open early voting at least 10 days prior to election. 4)
Develop a touch-screen voting machine - include pictures for non-English speakers - that delivers a paper “receipt” to the voter. It’s done at
gas pumps millions of times a day. 5) Provide paper ballots at each voting station, for any disputed voter to use, pending a decision on voting or for
people who do not want to vote electronically. 6) Continue the rule that all persons present at closing time are allowed to vote before the poll is
[edit on 11/6/2006 by donwhite]