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Prometheus

Democracy is the most complicated form of government. When everyone has an opinion, and no one’s opinion is wrong, it becomes extremely difficult for a government to establish, among others, freedom, order and equality. Although it is difficult, the one process which truly allows for the possibility of such a cooperative system is the people’s right to vote. As long as everyone has an equal chance to participate through voting, there is a chance for pure democracy to exist. The problems today go beyond not having equal opportunities; today that which is not equal is being presented in such a way that citizens are made to believe that it is. Through trial and error and other forms of analysis it has been determined that essentially all voting processes are flawed. It is a matter of finding the process that is the least flawed.
Before the Civil rights movement, up until the passing of the Voting Rights Act in 1965, many of the southern and some western states believed it was in their best interest to implement a voter qualification test also known as a “literacy test.” At the time of its creation this test was written with the intention of preventing black and Latino voters from passing. Naturally there were different versions of the test for white voters. While black voters were prompted to answer questions such as “if a person charged with treason denies his guilt, how many persons must testify against him before he can be convicted?” white voters may have been asked what FBI stood for. Presently voter qualifications are not nearly as demanding; you must be over 18, be a citizen of the US, a resident of your district, not a felon, and registered to vote. If a literacy test were implemented in today’s voting process, even if it were uniform nation wide, it would be disastrous. As soon as someone was denied the right to vote at no apparent fault of their own, democracy is compromised. Based on what we have learned and how that which is currently established has worked, it is logical to suggest that the voter qualifications currently in place are thorough, reasonable and effective and should therefore not be changed.
A very significant aspect of the voting process is that of voter registration. It is an extremely complicated process to keep track of registered voters throughout the country. For one thing, when voters move they do not always follow the correct process of changing their registration, and for another, when voters die, it is not always documented. In the 1960 election, the number of deceased voters who cast a ballot, especially in Chicago, was overwhelmingly scandalous. Because of the simplicity of voter fraud under the current system of registration, there should be a tighter log of registered voters. In the 2004 elections it was an extremely difficult task to register people to vote. Although the form is extremely short and simple and often pre-posted, people were resistant. The Georgia registration form, for example was very accommodating. Originally the only major inconvenience on the form was the fact that the voter had to supply some form of identification such as a photocopy of a driver’s license. This was often a problem for those who did not have access to photocopy machines, but later this part of the registration was eliminated. It is extremely important that the forms remain to be on paper and not electronic because of the technical complications and the limited access to computers for certain the specific range of lower income individuals. In states where it is required to either renew or receive your license after the age of 18, citizens should be prompted to register to vote.
The driving force behind polling officers are essentially volunteers who are paid a stipend for their time. Every polling officer must go to a training session before every election. In California there is currently a Bill that “would require the Secretary of State to adopt uniform standards based on the recommendations by June 30, 2005.” Prior to the Help America Vote Act(2002) the California officers were required to maintain and operate the voting systems, know, respect and administer the rights of voters, recognize and assist voters with disabilities, offer language assistance when applicable, know the limits and authority of their positions and specific procedures, be suspect to at least one hour of hands on training. Even though the workers have this limited amount of hands on training, it can not possibly cover all of the situations they will be expected to handle, nor will it provide them with the technical expertise to repair the voting machinery if necessary. Although this does not seem like an immediate problem, considering the case of a small Ohio district in which there were only two voting machines of which one became unusable by noon, it becomes increasingly important.
In 2002, the Help America Vote Act allocated $3.75 billion towards, among other things, voting machines. There is, however a massive amount of controversy surrounding this electronic system. The main problem is that there is no paper trail to be followed in case of malfunction of voting machines. Some positive aspects are the fact that there is no middle man; it’s faster, and cheaper for large quantities. However, in light of recent elections the controversy has risen quite rapidly. The major electronic voting machine provider and maintainer in America is Diebold Inc. What is unsettling about this company is the fact that during 2004 they contributed $409,280 to republican and only 2,500 to democratic candidates. While it is not uncommon for large corporations to donate to political campaigns, it does not seem as appropriate when the company in charge of essentially telling us who wins is clearly a republican company. After the 2004 elections Christopher Hitchens, a conservative journalist, did an analysis on voting machines in a small town in Ohio. Because the town had only two voting machines for 2000 voters, and one of the voting machines malfunctioned, there were citizens waiting inline until 4:00am to cast a vote. Upon reexamination of the votes, Hitchens found that an overwhelming majority of the voters cast a vote for every race but mysteriously the presidential vote was blank. Hitchens drew the conclusion that it would have been bizarre for people to wait in line until 4:00am and then not vote for the president. After further investigation, he found similar situations in several small towns all around Ohio. Although Paper ballots do provide a trail, the 2000 elections clearly demonstrate how even this can go awry. There is a large allowance for human error in this form of voting. Overall, the main problem, besides miscast ballots, is the fact that the technology is not evenly distributed. The fact that low income districts often have fewer and less reliable machines is a clear indication of a problem. Because this form of discrimination specifically targets one group of the population, it is consequently also targeting a specific political orientation. Voting machines should create a sort of receipt which the voter would verify and sign before electronically casting the ballot, the voter would then hand the receipt in as a back up trace in case there was a need to specifically review the information.
It is important for there to be a uniform national system for elections to office in America in order to preserve democracy. This includes a reform of ballot casting, and a strict compiling of registered and eligible voters. Without changes it will become very difficult to maintain a prosperous and functional democracy.


Works Cited:

"Election Reform Briefing: the Business of Elections." Electionline. Aug. 2004. 14 Feb. 2004. http://www.pewtrusts.org/pdf/electionline_081104.pdf.
Hitchens, Christopher. “Ohio’s odd Numbers.” Vanity Fair. March 2005. Vol. 78. p.410.
Kaplan, Anna. “Follow the Nonexistent Paper Trail.” Humanist. Jan/Feb 2005. Vol. 65 Issue 1. p7-9.
King, John. “Bush discusses election reforms, civil rights with black lawmakers.” CNN. Feb. 1, 2001. Feb. 13, 2005. http://archives.cnn.com/2001/ALLPOLITICS/s tories/02/01/bush.black.caucus/index.html
"Model Legislation: Voting Reform Act." AFL-CIO. 2005. American Federation of Labor. 14 Feb. 2005 http://www.aflcio.org/issuespolitics/stateissues/elect ions/state_er_vra.cfm.
“Poll Worker Training In California.” Dec. 2004. IGS Library. 15 Feb. 2005. http://www.igs.berkeley.edu/library/htPollWorkerTraining.html
Wayne, Stephen. “The Presidential Electoral Process.” Georgetown University. 2 Feb. 2005. http://www.iwa.org/Publications/lectures/wayne.htm

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