Election year has come and that means a barrage of media talking heads, pundits, opinion polls, exit polls …it is the politics version of E! Online. The best part of the primaries for me is to see if this will be the cycle we “finally” get our technology (and process right). I am glad to report that there is NO CHANGE to the status quo. Things are as ridiculous and asinine as before. For a country that prides itself as the greatest democracy and greatest innovation engine we sure have some “WTF” things going on.
Here are a few samples:
a) In the Iowa primary, coin tosses was used to decide the winner between Sanders and Clinton (LINK). In an interesting flip of events (yes pun intended) Clinton won all six coin toss decisions!
b) New electronic voting machines (in Maryland) are being scrapped for the April Primary and the plan is to revert back to manual paper balloting. Apparently this year’s cavalcade of candidates is posing a real estate problem on the electronic screens. In addition, what can be deemed as “ridiculously hilarious” the electronics machines have a glitch when the voter clicks the ‘PREVIOUS” button it actually takes them to the previous candidate race (and same for NEXT) – LINK
c) We have aging voting machines. Read – really really old voting machines. NPR Report (Link to Report ) – Allen County, Ohio, election director Ken Terry knows how bad things can get. In the last presidential election, he had to replace the Zip disks — a 1990s technology — in the main machine his county uses to count votes. The disks are no longer made. And when he finally got some from the voting machine manufacturer:
“They actually had a coupon in them. They were sealed and everything. And the coupon had expired in … 1999,” he said.
This is really scary – seems like our democratic process is run by hamster wheels with actual hamsters. The detailed report from the Brennan Center can be found here – LINK
We can breakdown these issues into two broad categories:
- Flaws with the Primary process
- Ongoing Logistics problems with voting (obviously this is not just a primary issue)
Let’s examine these:
Why Iowa and New Hampshire? These states probably are the least representative of the country’s demographics. For example Republicans would do better in choosing Florida given the state’s broad representation of Social Conservatives; Evangelicals and Fiscal Conservatives. California would be a great choice for the Democrats. (LINK ). So many other states make the list before Iowa.
And why a caucus and not a straight up vote like the real elections (like other states run their primaries)? I am all for the neighborhood and community vibe but this is serious stuff, electing the leader of the free world. We can’t have folks walking around in gyms like they are in a county fair trying to decide which stall from which to buy crap. Even more confusing is the concept of open primaries whereby voters do not need to have party affiliations which can open up the risk for shenanigans.
I realize that the “primary” objective of the Primary is to nominate the presidential candidate and each party approaches it slightly differently. But can we not at least standardize the primary process to get rid of the caucuses. It was disheartening to see a bunch of folks around what seemed like a Costco plastic table counting the ballots (and dropping a few on the ground)
Coming to our logistics issues with voting machines. Everyone is painfully aware of the systemic issues during the 2000 elections and here we are 15+ years later with not much to show for it.
From the Politico Article – “Fifteen years after the term “hanging chad” entered the American political lexicon, and Congress appropriated $2 billion to move to electronic voting systems to avoid a future conundrum, those same electronic systems are still in use in many jurisdictions.”
Why isn’t this issue front and center for the Congress and the Senate. This is surely bipartisan and impacts everyone. Why can we not provide the additional funding to expedite this?
It is extremely frustrating to see the level of sophistication in the American Idol voting and our Government still is unable to fix this fundamental democratic process.