31 October, 2008

Voting in this country

If you wanted to have a "fair election" and you were building your own large country from scratch, what might be a few of the things that you would aim to achieve in constructing such a system? Let's assume, first, that you do wish to have different regions, such as states, within this country, and that you do want to have each of the states hold some weight in making overall decisions for the country. So, for starters you choose to adopt the electoral college system that is used in the United States. But from there, what else might you do?
  • Instead of delivering electoral votes in an "all-or-none" fashion, you could allot the votes by district within the states. This would arguably be an even more "representative" system than our current one, because people who live in large states like Texas, California, or New York, would get to have their vote heard more clearly at the federal level. You've all heard the statement from someone in New York, claiming "my vote doesn't matter" because they know the state as a whole will always vote Democrat in national elections. Two states (Nebraska and Maine) already use this method of divvying up the vote, and there's no federal law prohibiting it.
  • Instead of holding elections on a Tuesday in November, when people are working, and the weather is often incredibly unpredictable, maybe you would hold elections on a weekend in the late Spring, when weather is not a factor, maybe even consider making a holiday - you could even call it "Election Day".
  • Instead of leaving it up to every state or district to decide what type of voting equipment to use, or to consider bids from various competing corporations who would like to sell voting equipment, maybe it would be a better idea to have a uniform method of casting votes in all parts of the country. Because we don't want to have a variable risk of trustworthy voting technology depending on region.

The reason I wrote this blog is because it baffles me that our voting technology has been farmed out to corporations. We have absolutely no reason to believe that we can or should trust privately owned corporations to offer a reliable and accurate vote. Especially in a capitalistic society where the corporations are directly in a position to benefit from the outcome of these elections. Yet our country is a complete hodgepodge of voting gear.

There's a great website that shows what equipment is used on a state-by-state basis. You can look at that site here: http://verifiedvoting.org/verifier/

In addition to the state-level data, you can also drill into each state and see district-by-district, which equipment is being used. One thing to note immediately are the states whose colors are red, orange, or magenta. Because these are states that use electronic voting with NO paper trail. Therefore, once you cast your vote, and leave the booth, there is no way of ever checking or contesting an outcome based on presumption of errors in the electronic vote. Those states/districts are implicitly trusting technology. And among those states who use that technology are Pennsylvania, Virginia, and Florida.

So when McCain says he's confident he can win Pennsylvania, in spite of the polls showing him to be at least 9% behind, doesn't that make you just a little bit concerned?

It is simply mindblowing to me that after the "butterfly ballot" scandal in Florida, in 2000, where thousands of people accidentally cast votes for Pat Buchanan instead of Al Gore, that there would have been a national movement to improve the reliability of voting in this country. Well, there were changes, yes! But I believe they were the wrong changes. We went to more electronic voting, because of a few obvious things. First, one can argue that it is a more reliable system. Second, it obviously created a market for technology corporations to obtain huge contracts for providing such equipment. But the downside of this is that the validity of that decision is based entirely on the false premise that we can trust the faithfulness of these voting machines (to say nothing of repeated issues of reliability which have subsequently arisen).

Why can't voting be simple? Why can't we just have people fill in bubbles with pens, and then have a room full of "vote counters" who are from all represented parties, who count these ballots, and must agree on their tally? Forget about chads, and forget about touch screens. Voting is important enough to leave it to the eyes of a panel of human beings.

1 comment:

  1. Right on Mick!

    Can you please tell us citizens how to regain the power that is systematically and deliberately stripped from us each and every day?

    There's election fraud, spying, secret prisons where they torture us, economic shenanigans to keep us all slaves and a constant war.

    If we keep going down this road, we are going to end up right in George Orwell's 1984.