American elections are a shambles


After every election, we hear horror stories of breakdowns in the system. These things happen in elections at all levels but usually it is the high-profile ones like elections for president that draw media attention to the many, many problems that beset American elections, some inadvertent, some by deliberate design.

The list is long. Voting machines malfunctioning or breaking down altogether, poorly trained election staff, insufficient numbers of ballots, polling places insufficiently staffed resulting in long lines and waiting times of hours, polling stations not opening on time or unexpectedly closed, increased voting restrictions making it harder and harder for people to register to vote, onerous and sometimes humiliating identification requirements, lists of voter rolls being purged of legitimate voters, the list goes on.

This does not even include dark suspicions of voting machines being rigged to switch votes from one candidate to another, though I have not seen those rumors confirmed.

This is an absolute disgrace. If you tried to deliberately make people disgusted so that they would opt out of the voting proves, you could not do a better job.

Most of the blame can be placed on the lack of insufficient resources being provided to do things properly, the same starving of the public sector that has resulted in crumbling infrastructure and general decay of public services.

But the bedrock of democracy it is that people should be able to vote fairly easily and straightforwardly and that their votes should be accurately tallied. The US has been conducting elections for more than two hundred years. It is high time that we did it right.

Comments

  1. moarscienceplz says

    All of my voting has been done in well-privileged white-majority Democrat-dominated Northern California, so these are problems I have never experienced. However, just the other day I heard a radio ad for people to man the California primary polling places, and they said if you were bilingual in one of the desired languages, you could get a whole ten dollars extra!
    Wow! So, if you have learned two languages, and you don’t have to work that day, you can get twenty whole bucks! Golly, why aren’t poll workers breaking down the doors of the election committees? And why aren’t the percentages of actual voters vs. eligible voters higher? The world may never know.

  2. Heidi Nemeth says

    I once heard Jimmy Carter talk on NPR of his monitoring of elections in other nations as part of the work of the Carter Center. He admitted elections in the US do not conform to 2 of the 4 or 5 requirements the Carter Center demands of elections in countries which request the oversight of the the Carter Center.

  3. Dave Huntsman says

    On one related subject – universal, automatic, inherent voter registration – I completely agree with Bernie Sanders: The right to vote is just that – an inherent right, like free speech – that one shouldn’t have to jump through different hoops, in 50 different states, just to exercise; particularly when there are very real, corrupt political forces that continue to try and suppress the vote. Voter suppression efforts are a deliberate, corrupt suppression of American democracy, that must be treated as inherently illegal; and, unconstitutional.

  4. Jockaira says

    Register by Mail, Vote by Mail. It’s the answer to all the ills of the balloting process.
    .
    For those who may find in person voting on election day to be too much to handle for one reason or another, remember that you can file an absentee ballot weeks ahead of the actual election. It’s much more convenient than standing in long lines and making hurried choices about which lying politician gets your “X”. Ask your local election commission about details.
    .
    You can register and vote at the same time, and remember that the only reason you need to state for your absentee ballot is that you will not be in the community on election day.

  5. doublereed says

    And if anything, this election cycle might get the democratic establishment more interested in voter suppression, out of fear of progressives.

  6. Dunc says

    Postal voting is not without its problems… You can’t guarantee that the person a postal ballot is assigned to is actually the person who completed it, nor can you protect the privacy of the voter, so they can be pressured to vote in ways that they might not in a truly secret ballot. As for internet voting… You know that not everybody has internet access, right?

  7. lorn says

    Many of the problems with voting have to do with the fact that in many states the infrastructure of voting is not non-partisan, It is often run by a partisan appointee and the variability in the smoothness of the vote has a lot to do with how well aligned the district is with the political affiliations of the governor.

    A good example was the 2000 presidential election in Florida. Katherine Harris, appointed by the Republican governor, was secretary of state and in charge of voting and counting the votes. No coincidence that districts that tended to vote Republican had shorter lines and better equipment. Or that exclusion of voters was a problems much more often in Democratic leaning areas.

    The GOP has long worked the system through gerrymandering and voter suppression. More recently they have been caught bragging about those efforts.

  8. EnlightenmentLiberal says

    Voting machines malfunctioning or breaking down altogether, poorly

    Electric voting machines are an abomination. All votes should be by paper ballot.

    On one related subject – universal, automatic, inherent voter registration – I completely agree with Bernie Sanders: The right to vote is just that – an inherent right, like free speech – that one shouldn’t have to jump through different hoops, in 50 different states, just to exercise;

    Also completely agreed.

    Why isnt it all done by web/mail?
    Oh right: drama and drama-mongers.

    Oh Marcus, you being the security expert should be able to answer that one concerning your suggestion “do it online”. With a secret ballot, a physical ballot, like paper, becomes necessary. With no physical paper trail, voter fraud becomes as easy as flipping some bits. If it were an open ballot, then online could work, but not with a secret ballot.

  9. Dunc says

    Electric voting machines are an abomination. All votes should be by paper ballot.

    I’ve never understood the need for voting machines of any kind… Here in the UK, the voting equipment consists of a plywood booth and a pencil on a string. That means we can have lots of polling stations, so long queues are unheard-of. I’ve never heard of anybody having to queue for more than a few minutes to vote, never mind hours. It also means that most people don’t have to travel far – at the first election after the last time I moved house, I went to my old polling station out of habit, only to be told that I needed to go to a different one. It was less than 500 metres away.

  10. ivo says

    Postal voting is not without its problems… You can’t guarantee that the person a postal ballot is assigned to is actually the person who completed it, nor can you protect the privacy of the voter, so they can be pressured to vote in ways that they might not in a truly secret ballot.

    Many countries (e.g. mine) routinely employ postal voting, without any such problems. The solution is obvious: you send back an envelope containing (a) a hand-signed paper certifying it was you sending it (on which is printed a friendly reminder: “voter frode carries a penalty up to three years, etc”), and (b) a sealed smaller envelope containing the actual ballot. The latter is only opened after the former has been verified and physically separated.

    Of course, it helps to have neutral or multipartisan committees handling all this:

    Many of the problems with voting have to do with the fact that in many states the infrastructure of voting is not non-partisan, It is often run by a partisan appointee

    I can’t even fathom how such a blatant conflict of interest can be tolerated. Voter suppression and Gerrymandering are only to be expected, under such rules. Ah, America! Beacon of Democracy!…

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