In June ’06 I was on vacation in Germany visiting with my wife’s relatives. We were sitting around talking about government scandals, and some in the US. I don’t remember exactly which ones we were talking about, but I piped up and said that the real scandal is the way the act of voting is handled.
Today, The New York Times had a great piece in the magazine on electronic voting machines.
I’ve been thinking about this and its influence on the stability of a nation. right now people in Kenya are rioting and dying over the “results” of an election. They can’t trust that their votes were counted fairly.
Here elections happen like clockwork and few people truly believe that a president would try to retain office after his term by force, or change the rules to do so, as in recent events in Venezuela and Russia. I believe that in 2000 Gore gave up not because he thought he lost, but because of faith in the process. We all knew there’d be a chance to fix the mistake 4 years later. (At the time I never would have believed how badly 4, and now 8 years could go, but that’s a different rant.)
In principle, I very much like the idea of a more accessible voting system, but it is vital that it be open and trusted. Outsourcing this core component of our version of democracy to closed and proprietary vendors is a recipe for disaster.
A brief quote from the piece sums this up for me:
That, in a nutshell, is what people crave in the highly partisan arena of modern American politics: an election that can be extremely close and yet regarded by all as fair. Not only must the losing candidate believe in the loss; the public has to believe in it, too.
The 2000 election left us needing to make the process better; definitely a worthy goal. But rushing to that goal will only make things worse, and the consequences can shatter our stability.
Feh. I feel like I’m writing a 10th grade paper, but this is important to me.