Saturday, November 10, 2012

Left Side of the Aisle #81 - Part 3

Outrage of the Week: our election system

The Outrage of Week grew out of the election and the days and weeks leading up to it. It is something that appears to have reached some sort of critical mass among the punditocracy and politicos, which you can tell because it has been a topic of comment even beyond election night. (Even the Great Mr. O made reference to it.) And that is very much to the good.

However, before I get into it, I'm going to take a moment to feed my own ego by noting that much of what follows below consists of quoting myself from something I posted here four years ago, after the last presidential election. So to all those pundits, I say welcome and better late than never.

The Outrage itself is easy enough to describe. It is the absurd, the ethically offensive, burdens put on people who are trying to exercise their right to vote. However, this is truly a case where a picture is worth a thousands words, because it's even easier to picture that Outrage.

It is this:

And this:

And this:

And more and more and more.

It has been said any number of times but it merits repeating: If the US were a "third world" nation, we would condemn our election system as a travesty, as awful, as incapable of producing a fair and reliable outcome.

Our election system is a disgrace. An utter, shameful, disgrace. And this doesn't have a damn thing to do with who you want to win or whether you are content with two parties (I'm not) or urge support of third, fourth, fifth parties to keep the ideas flowing (I do). It has nothing to do with pulling the lever or filling in the oval or whatever for Barack Obama or Witless Romney or Jill Stein or whoever.

Having to stand in line for five, six, even eight hours in order to vote is a disgrace. It is unacceptable. And these pictures are not even of election day, these are pictures of early voting, of the process that was supposed to make it easier to vote, that was supposed to cut down on those lines - and this is what is produced. I heard last night that some people in Florida were standing in line until nearly 2AM local time trying to vote.

This is more than merely unacceptable: It is a threat to the very concept of being able to vote. There are physical limits to how long people can stand in line. Again, this has nothing to do with being capitalist or socialist, blue or red or Green. It has to do with having a functioning republic.

And I'm not even talking about the bogus voter fraud claims or the idiot "voter ID" laws being passed or the new restrictions on registering or any of the rest of the voter suppression - although the proportion of black faces in those incredibly long lines might give you a hint as to why those lines are allowed to exist. But no, I'm not even talking about that. I'm talking about the normal functioning of the system, one riddled with administrative errors, poor record-keeping, varying and changing standards and regulations, problems with absentee ballots, registration backlogs, and wrongly calibrated voting machines, and perhaps worst or all, people being wrongfully and illegally denied provisional ballots when problems do arise because all too often, election officials don't actually know the laws they are there to enforce and administer.

What's the answer to this? For one thing, a standardized registration process that does not impose unfair and unnecessary burdens on the poor and elderly. For another, get more goddam voting machines! That would cut down on those lines. Obviously there is more to it that that, but frankly "get more machines" is such an obvious and direct response that I can only wonder why it doesn't seem to get implemented.

Actually, I don't wonder, not entirely, because I refer you back to the preponderance black faces in those long lines. Some people figure it is to their political benefit or their selfish benefit - or, for some others, a reflection of their own inflated sense of their social importance - to limit the right to vote and the ability of people to act on that right. And here I have to be honest and say that this is an area where one of the major political parties - the GOPpers, who think they do better with smaller turnouts - is far more guilty than the other - the Dimcrats, who think they do better with bigger turnouts.

But even ignoring all that, going down to the basic system, our basic election system, and the fact remains that our entire system from registration to actually being able to vote and to have it counted is a chaotic mess. It should be a major source of embarrassment to us as a people. It is an outrage.


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