May 20, 2024

Voting Integrity

Earlier this AM I cast my vote for McCain/Palin.  In rural Texas there was a 3-4 minute wait accompanied by some boisterous conversation about how Americans need to scale back their expectation of government-provided services.  Conservative talk, and true, judging from our economic numbers.

I also voted on a local school bond issue, meaning that I used 2 different electronic voting machines with completely different user interfaces.  Both worked flawlessly.  I give no credence to reports of vote flipping because operator error is a much, much more likely cause of mistakes.  Not that there should be any – both machines were simple to operate and should pose no challenge to voters. 

In summary, mine was a textbook-case voting experience, with no hint of difficult or impropriety in view.  I must say, the simplicity and accuracy of the process comes as no surprise to me.  I have a close relationship with an election official responsible for the ballot creation and administration of electronic voting in one of Texas’ largest counties.  The amount of effort that goes into ensuring the correct configuration of these machines in his county is quite substantial.  Everything is checked and cross-checked in advance and each machine is configured fresh for each election.  All machines are kept in a secure site when not in use and are deployed and monitored (remotely) by trained technical people.  His work inspires great confidence in me that electronic voting is more accurate and less error-prone than paper ballots.

Not so the work of on-site election officials.  Most of my colleagues at the daily grind voted early to avoid today’s lines.  One person who voted today came into the office late and fit to be tied.  Seems the election judge in her precinct allowed a young college student to vote without a voter registration card or any form of picture ID.  His identification?  A check book.

Amazing.  For all the blue-haired old ladies at the civic center knew the kid could have been impersonating his roommate and casting an invalid ballot.  Who is to say that didn’t happen?  Yet he was allowed to vote.  Not provisionally, you understand, but with the same full force as my co-worker – with zero proof of identity.  As a designer of systems, this makes me ill.  What is the point of rules and laws if they aren’t going to be followed?  This is a perfect demonstration of why a picture ID should be required to vote, no exceptions, whether you’re a habit-wearing nun loose from the convent or John McCain himself.

Is it going to matter?  After all, Texas is going to McCain regardless of this young man and others like him.  But it does matter in that voting is the most fundamental right of citizens of a democracy.  It should be exercised with both solid knowledge of the issues and solid identification of the voter.  Citizen’s belief in the integrity should be of the highest concern.

This is not the case in many parts of America, as every casual observer of Chicago political history is aware.  Neither is it the case in Philadelphia in 2008 where election judges are actively discriminating against Republican poll watchers and evicting them from the premises, a state judge’s order disallowing the action notwithstanding:

GOP Election Board members have been tossed out of polling stations in at least half a dozen polling stations in Philadelphia because of their party status.

A Pennsylvania judge previously ruled that court-appointed poll watchers could be NOT removed from their boards by an on-site election judge, but that is exactly what is happening.

Much has been written about the need for American  to accept the winner of this election as the legitimate leader of this nation, one nation.  To the extent that the integrity of the electoral process is demonstrably lacking, that legitimacy and the potential for true unity behind either Barack Obama or John McCain is diminished. 

Both sides should strictly obey voting regulations so that a fair result can be obtained.  It’s worth remembering that if you have to cheat to obtain the outcome you desire, then your cause did not deserve to prevail.

As for me, I’m quite confident that John McCain will not win the election and our local school bond issue will pass.  But if either result is reversed, life will go on.  Politics is an intriguing game at times but it does not define who or what we are as citizens of this country, that is, people lucky enough to live, work, and raise families in the greatest society that mankind has yet achieved.  Let’s remember that tomorrow morning and go back to work to make sure it stays that way.


Marc is a software developer, writer, and part-time political know-it-all who currently resides in Texas in the good ol' U.S.A.

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