Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Don't Mock the Vote

A caller to the Jim Leach Show yesterday declared himself “scared to death” while voicing his opinion on the issue that was up for discussion. What had him shaking through the phone lines wasn’t the government’s obvious inability to quickly respond to a disaster. It wasn’t the prospects on a nuclear-packing Iran. It wasn’t even flashbacks of the Larry King interview with Celine Dion. No, it was a fear of computerized touch-screen voting machines that set his skin to pallor (although I can’t be sure he turned ghost-like, it being radio and me being a bit hyperbolic.)

This new-fangled way of casting a ballot, he reckoned, is ripe for election fixing and that mysterious code that acts as the brain of technology will easily meld to the will of the political scoundrels in our midst.

He was reminded by the host that all elections, in whatever form they take, are subject to corruption but we do manage to soldier on in our pursuit of democracy. I would add that at some point we just have to believe that those entrusted with administering elections aren’t necessarily the cheating miscreants that inhabit our partisan paranoia.

Some people obviously want to go back to the day when "X"s would be scratched on handwritten ballots then stuffed in wooden boxes before being sent over to the county seat so Parson Tucker and Doc Goodall could commence to tallying. But I suspect that what is really at work isn’t a fear of technology so much as distrust of “thine enemy.”

But fear not.

The good thing about the whole Hatfield and McCoy thing going on between the two political parties is that they both see each other as foxes lurking about the chicken coop and they’re just itching to fire some buckshot into anything creeping around all suspicious-like. They’re going to accuse each other of cheating on election day even when everything is on the up-and-up, so I feel pretty comfortable, should somebody actually try something shady, that there will be plenty of whistles blowing and fur flying.

I realize that some underhanded activity takes place during elections. Polling places in some districts are inhospitable to minority voters while others make like Wendy’s and stay open late for their convenience. I figure that as long the sleaze-operatives on both sides stay on top of their game - making sure that the prerequisite number of dead people vote, things like that - then everything should even out in the end. But I also know that they are many who firmly believe that the sleaze oozes solely from the pores of their political opposites while their side maintains a wholesome glow.

It’s clear that we will never again have a national election without accusations of irregularities erupting from the side that came up short. The customary conciliatory phone call from the conceding candidate will soon be replaced with the obligatory filing of lawsuits alleging voting fraud.

But I still feel confident that in the end, the voice of the majority will rule the day. If you have faith in democracy, which you must if you want it to work, then you'll wield your mighty stylus upon the blue computer screen and cast your lot for the candidate of your choice. What's the worst thing that can happen?

4 comments:

Will Reynolds said...

Considering the fact that the county has chosen a completely untested voting system, making us guinea pigs, I would say the worst thing that could happen is a total disaster.

The county should expect more people like the WMAY caller since they chose the new voting machines before seeking any public feedback. Nothing is gained by making decisions in the dark.

What do you think about the SJ-R's failure to report on who was getting the $3 million contract just a few days before the county board voted to authorize the clerk to enter negotiations?

BlogFreeSpringfield said...

I'm not familiar with the negotiations, although I did hear Jim Leach comment that the company in question has contributed to both Democrats and Republicans, as I'm sure that most companies in this line of work do. That being the case, I don't see anything suspicious with the deal. But as you say, if much of it was done in the dark then maybe we don't know the whole story

I just can't foresee the doomsday scenerio that you fear. But should that fateful election day come to pass, I'll join you in storming Joe Aiello's office.

Will Reynolds said...

The fact that a $3 million contract is being signed without any meaningful public input should be enough to make anyone disappointed with Aiello's office. The fact that the chair of Aiello's hand picked citizen advisory committee that chose the machines couldn’t answer detailed questions about optical scan machines when asked to do so makes me wonder how seriously other companies were ever considered.

I think its symptomatic of an attitude in county government that they believe they know what's best for us and don't feel any obligation to explain themselves to the public. The way voting machines were chosen annoys me for the same reasons that I'm annoyed by the Republicans on the county board holding on their debate in caucus meetings instead of the full county board meetings. That has nothing to do with conspiracy theories or doomsday scenarios.

Will Reynolds said...

The fact that a $3 million contract is being signed without any meaningful public input should be enough to make anyone disappointed with Aiello's office. The fact that the chair of Aiello's hand picked citizen advisory committee that chose the machines couldn’t answer detailed questions about optical scan machines when asked to do so makes me wonder how seriously other companies were ever considered.

I think its symptomatic of an attitude in county government that they believe they know what's best for us and don't feel any obligation to explain themselves to the public. The way voting machines were chosen annoys me for the same reasons that I'm annoyed by the Republicans on the county board holding all of their debate in caucus meetings instead of the full county board meetings. That has nothing to do with conspiracy theories or doomsday scenarios.