Saturday, November 01, 2008

21st Century Elections

In the days of yore, it was fun to go with the whole world to the neighborhood polling place on the appointed day, , to greet one's neighbors on both sides of the issues and sign in in front of people who probably knew you. You Betcha.

Those days are gone. They've been gone for a good while. They probably never existed in lots of places but they're gone now.

How to have free and fair elections in the 21st century.

1. Election Day turns into Election Month, during which the polls are open six days a week, from noon to 8 or thereabouts. County clerks rent vacant storefronts in accessible places. School is not disrupted, parking is easy, you can vote near your home or your work. If there are problems, there is time to fix them. If fraud is suspected there is time to check into it. If intimidation is charged, there is time to put a stop to it. Lacking a mad rush, there is time to do things, as the Methodists say, "decently and in order.". (Maybe that's the Presbyterians.)

If the weather is poor or a person gets sick, no problem. Fewer voting setups are required. There are fewer possibilities for "October Surprise". The only downside is the nostalgic one....it's just not like the good old Election Day.

It is like the 21st century.

2. Settle on simple ID-checking rules. At my early voting site, I was asked for my name and address and given the most precious piece of paper in a democracy; a ballot. With a phone book and evil intent, I could have spent the past 10 days voting for every one of my (female) neighbors. I guess the poll workers were supposed to recognize their "neighbors.".

This is crazy nuts, 19th century idealistic small town foolishness.

I appeared to me from the signage that the poll workers had the right to ask me to tell them my birthdate, and to require me to take a provisional ballot if I didn't give the right answer. I wonder who they do ask? How can they ask some but not others without being open to accusations of prejudice.

I say, End This Foolishness! Require Voter Identification! You have to have identification to drive to the polling place and to buy decongestant at the drugstore. You need identification to cash a check and to use a credit card. You need identification to purchase a bottle of wine even if you are 55 years old.

I'm easy about what kind of identification. Drivers License, Utility Bill, Voter card...anything with your name and address on it. Liberals say that this will suppress voting because "lots of people" don't have these documents. Fine. Help them get these documents. They will thank you forever and remember you every time they vote.

Apparently there 's not much abuse of our current 19th century system, and requiring identification wouldn't change much. But it's not just the reality of sloppiness, it's the appearance.

And this is the 21st century.



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1 comment:

Jess said...

I'm of about three minds regarding the ID question.

You have to show ID to get registered, and the law in NM states that once you are registered, you are required to provide name, address where registered, and birth year (as a "unique identifier"), but if the poll workers aren't sticking to that, then what's the point? The only time you have to show physical ID is if you registered by mail and haven't voted before.

In the training I received as an election clerk, we spent a good half an hour on all of this. But I'm curious to see what the practice is when we get there on Tuesday. When I voted early, I had to fill out a little sheet with name, address, and birth year, which they then checked against their computer records, and then I got my ballot.

In Chicago, you had to have 18 forms of ID to register, but then only give your name at the polls, matched to a printed card in a huge book that they then tore out and handed down the line to be stamped and marked and filed before you were given a ballot.

In Milwaukee, you could register at the polls on election day, but always had to show an ID.

But in all of these places, the states issue voter registration cards. Why can't we just use these as ID at the polls? They'd have to beef up how they produce them, as they're probably very easily forgeable in their current form, but it would seem to make sense and eliminate some of the barriers many see to using "standard" forms of ID.