Monday, 3 November 2008

Some Random Pre-Election Thoughts

I realize that I am a dumb Canuck and have no real legitimacy to comment on the day of historic proportions that awaits, but I have been pondering some of the outright lunacy that surrounds the American political system. Call it a Stop the Stupid for the 2008 election season.

1. Why is it that every state cannot harmonize their voting processes? One would have thought that after the debacle of 2000 that introduced the world to the existence of a hanging chad, that the federal government would have passed a law that demanded uniformity amongst the states, at least in the cases of federal elections. I find it absolutely appalling that what might work well in Nevada, contravenes law in Florida. (Don't yell at me for ambiguity, these were just examples!!) Ohio, which has been a bastion for voting issues over the years, is operating under a new system for the third time in three elections. I realize that the ballots are about far more than the election of the president. They are crammed with House races, Senate races, Gubernatorial races, sometimes state house races, judges, sheriffs, Attorneys General and a whole host of ridiculous ballot initiatives. All the more reason to properly and accurately count each and every ballot with a uniform system that can be traced, retraced and backed up!! I understand that special interests on both sides of the aisle have interfered with a coherent election system, but this nonsense affects both parties equally and the untold millions that have been spent on band-aid solutions, should be an embarrassment to the American people. Come on, folks! It is time to practice what you preach to the rest of the world and hold an election that is totally democratic and above board. Harmonize the voting booths.

2. And while I am on the subject, what is wrong with a piece of paper and a number 2 pencil? That is how we do it in the north hinterland, and we don't have many problems. Simply go into the voting booth with a piece of paper that lists the candidates and mark a big fat X next to the name you choose. Sounds simple, doesn't it?  There is a paper trail that follows the vote and there is no doubt as to the veracity of the ballot.  If the argument against the paper ballot is that it takes too long to count, I cannot concur.  We here in the Great White North seem to always know the victors within a few hours of the polls closing.  Now I realize that you have a lot more people voting then do we, but that also means that you must have more volunteers, scrutinizers and paid employees to count the votes.  Trust me! Sometimes the simplest solution is the best solution.

3. There are thoughts that my friends to the south could be facing a record turn-out tomorrow. Fantastic, except if you happen to be stuck in one of those three hour lines.  Early voting has certainly helped to alleviate some of the expected congestion, but there are only a handful of states that permit early polls.  Again, there is an issue with harmonization. It is every citizen's constitutional right to vote and most workers should be provided with a window of time during the day to actually get out and exercise that right.  But, it seems to me that if numbers are a problem (and a nice problem to have, since we up here only managed to drag 58% to the polls) the idea of making election day a holiday has some merit.  For God sakes, you have holidays that celebrate dead presidents, why not have a holiday that celebrates a live one?  Maybe voting days should be shifted to Saturday and Sunday so as to maximize the turnout.  Whatever the solution, the disenfranchising of any voter should not be tolerated on any level, and it should be incumbent on the states to make the process user-friendly.

4. Which leads me to the voter lists and rolls.  New laws in many states, (Indiana are you listening?) are being enforced that will demand proper ID at the polls.  While fraud is of major concern, the type of photo ID that is required is sketchy at best.  Driver's licenses are now required in many places to prove identity.  The problem is that 1 in 4 African-Americans do not hold a driver's license.  Many people of a certain age have no further need of a driver's license. Many people cannot afford to drive a car, so getting a license has been on the back-burner. While it is my hope that other forms of ID might be accepted, the laws have become increasingly picayune, and many people may find obstacles to voting.  There are solutions to these issues, but once again each state is different and research needs to be done to find out how best to exercise the right to vote.  Allow me a bit of a personal anecdote. Since Canada was dragged kicking and screaming to polls for the third time in six years, many new voters were not on the previous voter lists.  Younger Son, having just reached age of majority was one of these new voters.  No problem.  On election day, he simply walked into the poll in our riding and presented the Elections Canada wonks with his photo ID and proof of residence. (He does possess a driver's license, but they would have accepted a passport, health card or university student card!)  He was immediately placed on the list and allowed to vote.  Older Son cast his ballot from his new address for the first time.  All that was required was ID and proof of residence. (In his case, a Hydro bill with his name on it was sufficient!) Voting made simpler, not stupider.  

5. Here in Canada, no electioneering is permitted on election day.  No rallies, no ads, no dirty tricks like putting up flyers with false election dates.  NO POLITICKING ALLOWED ON ELECTION DAY.  On election day here last month, I entered the polls wearing my Barack Obama button. I was approached and asked if I was making a political statement. I responded I absolutely was, but not one that was relevant to the Canadian election. The only reason I was permitted to keep it, was because it didn't support or bash one of our parties. You all should consider this hiatus.  It is a true breath of fresh air after the stench of muckraking.  

6. After the election is over, there should be a moratorium on 2012 speculation, at least until after the 2010 midterms.  Give the poor bastard a chance to govern.  Not only that, think of the money that will be saved.  Every political reporter should be on vacay until the inauguration. Enough already.  The world is screaming "UNCLE" in unison. 

That's it!  Enjoy the drama, the comedy and the absurdity.  I hope that on Wednesday, we can all collectively breath and know that we witnessed the truly historic.  

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