July 22, 2008 - Your vote counts...
Paper: Long Beach Press-Telegram (CA)
Title: Your vote counts...
Date: July 22, 2008
But only if we can figure out how to count it.
Millions of American citizens who have never voted will line up at their polling places on Nov. 4, attracted by Sen. Barack Obama's candidacy for president. That's the good news, for Democrats. The bad news, for Democrats and everyone else, is that many polling places will be understaffed. Worse yet, confusion over the type of ballot - touch-screen or various kinds of paper ballots - may result in long lines, or even worse yet, prospective voters giving up in frustration without voting . In Ohio, Kenyon College students had to wait in line for nine hours in order to vote when machines malfunctioned. And Ohio is considered a swing state.
There's good reason for fearing the worst. L.A. County's confusing ballot resulted in 12,000 ballots being tossed out in the Feb. 6 presidential primary, and 18,000 ballots in the 2006 congressional election. Worse yet, election officials are having a devil of a time attracting poll workers. And even worse, they're having trouble finding the money to pay them.
This is democracy in action?
One of the problems is inconsistency. One-third of voters nationally will be using touch-screen machines, while more than half of the states will be using optical-scan paper ballots. Some states, not trusting touch-screen machines because they don't leave a paper trail, will be using both. You'd never know this is a national election, as in everyone uses the same method to vote.
But it's not only the method of voting that's worrying election officials. It's such basics as having enough ballots to go around. In Baltimore two years ago, polling places ran out of ballots at noon, and voters made their choices on random pieces of paper. Banana republics do better than that.
On the other hand, election officials in New Mexico overestimated turnout and had to shred $1.2 million worth of ballots, according to an account in the New York Times.
There's an easy solution to this mess: Absentee votes cast by mail. Californians already vote by mail in huge numbers - more than 4 million are permanently register to do so - and you don't need a reason for voting by mail. If you're not permanently registered to vote by mail, return the coupon on your sample ballot before the deadline, and complete your ballot in the privacy of your home.
As for attracting poll workers: How about recruiting high school volunteers. What better way to demonstrate how democracy works than working a 13-hour election day?
And how hard could it be for Congress to come up with a uniform way of voting? Think Social Security reform and immigration reform for starters, and you'll understand why we all can't vote the same way.
One more bit of bad news. A relatively new way of listing registered voters, designed to provide a nationwide master list, has massive errors. Which means that even if you can figure out how to vote, you may have a devil of a time convincing poll workers that you're entitled to the privilege.
As the saying goes, we can get a man on the moon, but we can't figure out how to count his vote.
Record Number: pt-0722-a10-684-pe22_edit2-97.xml
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