Thursday, December 02, 2004

Who's Your Daddy, Broward County?

Via Daily Kos:
Florida's election supervisors, impressed by the success of early voting, proposed dramatic reforms Tuesday that would eliminate Election Day, replace it with an 11-day election season and do away with precincts.

The association of the state's 67 chief elections officials voted in concept at its annual winter meeting in Orlando to informally present the idea to the Legislature and to start rallying support for what its members concede would be a sea change in how Floridians vote.

An enormous amount of what passes for democracy in what is supposed to be the most advanced nation in the world is hopelessly mired in, at best, the 1800's. Electoral College? Check. Senate -- yes, I'm one of those guys who's not in love with the Senate, but before you get on my case about the genius of the Founding Fathers, please remember that you've only been able to directly elect your Senators since 1914. Up until then, political appointees, particularly corrupt cronyish political appointees. (Didn't know that, did you? No, no one ever does. It's very boring.)

Where was I? Next, punchcard voting. The 21st Century alternative is electronic voting, which in the US is a.) run by private companies with private software because the job's just too damn difficult for some open source nonsense, except in say, Australia, where it is open source code, and works just fine -- and b.) EV in the States is rife with technical difficulties. Apparently for these big-ass corporations like Diebold, it's a well-nigh insurmountable challenge to build an electronic screen device where selections are clear, the "transaction" is noted in both the computer and then on a printed-out vote "receipt" for a paper trail, and a less than .01% error rate industry wide. Madness.

Many young democracies, inspired by the US, have made the righ to vote a part of their basic Constitutional rights. 135 nations, to be exact.

The US, however, doesn't. No such right to vote. The decision of how votes are counted, what votes are counted, who qualifies to register to vote -- that all falls to local counties and state governments. Your fundamental right as a citizen is at the mercy of, well, whoever the hell happens to be hanging around your state capitol at the time. The local governments have to come up with the money, too. So in your state if, say, a big statue of the Ten Commandments for the Capitol Building is deemed more important than accurately counting votes, so be it. Sleep tight.

Although the current President has supported no less than seven Constitutional Amendments (the record!), don't expect to see this one pop up any time soon.

That's why this move on the part of the Florida election supervisors is so encouraging. Instead of trying to impose a system from the top down, they saw something which was popular, and they're going to try to expand on it. That kind of innovation works. Call it E-Bay Evolution.

It's also a reinforcement of a longstanding belief of mine, that what gets society to change is the same thing that motivates us as individuals: shame. Shame, and only shame.

There's no exciting electoral system advancement coming out of Montana. Why? Because nobody's going around saying "The last thing we need this year is another Montana." "We're on the look-out for Montana-like voting failures", etc. No. For the last four years, voting screw-ups = Florida. For the last four years, these guys have been going to the Election Supervisor Conventions and getting made fun of, not getting laid even at the Election Supervisor Fondue and Key Parties, that sort of thing. Four years as the prop comics of Election Supervising. That's shame, my friends, and they spent four years making sure it wasn't going to happen again. You can bet your ass that on November 2nd, a bunch of drunken Election Supervisors in Miami were standing on their couches screaming "Suck on it now, Ohio! SUCK IT!"

Now they're on a roll. Good for them.

11 comments:

Timmy Mac said...

Dear John,

My news aggregator has folders for "comics," "geeks," and "politics." Please stop blurring the lines between them so willy-nilly; you are seriously fucking up my organization.

Jon said...

Love the thought behind your post, but I have to say a word in defense of our constitution and our democracy. At the time the US Constitution was created, the issue was whether the several states would form any kind of central government - kind of like what the EU is going through now. They intentionally left voting rights up to the states - each of which was essentially its own country - saying "The Times, Places and Manner of holding Elections for Senators and Representatives, shall be prescribed in each State by the Legislature thereof; but the Congress may at any time by Law make or alter such Regulations, except as to the Places of chusing Senators." (Constitution, Section 4, Clause 1.) Since then, the fifteenth amendment was passed ("The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude."), the 19th amendment ("The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex.") and Congress exercised its authority to protect the right to vote (the Voting Rights Act). Despite the Florida debacle, its not really fair to say that emerging democracies have better democractic protections built in. We definitely need to fix a few important things right now - but by and large, we are light years ahead of any emerging deomcracy.

(P.S. Love your blog, as always.)

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