Policy Position Paper
19 April 2005
Issue 3: Uniform National System for Elections to National Office
In the past two national elections, the United States has faced major voting inconsistencies and problems. These problems have caused many citizens to lose faith in election process and in the government as well. The most obvious cases are the 2000 election in Florida and 2004 election in Ohio. Through these two instances, and many others, we have seen irrefutable evidence that the country needs a uniform voting system for national elections. Reforming the current systems will make the elections more reliable and help to eliminate doubt in those people holding offices. The best way to solve the problem is by establishing standard voting procedures for all national offices; voter qualifications and registration, operations of polls, and the machinery used to vote need to be uniform in all the states in order to regain the trust of the voters.
The country became very aware during the 2000 election that the voting system was not reliable. In Florida, voters experienced problems which led to a major delay in the presidential election. The state was unprepared for the large turnout of voters, and the workers were not trained properly:
Despite the early signs of a large influx of new voters, Florida state election officials did not respond with the appropriate array of measures to avoid the chaos that occurred. The lack of sufficient and comparable resources and the absence of guidance from top state officials on matters such as voter education and effective poll worker training contributed to the incidence of spoiled and uncast ballots. (Foreman 2001, Executive Summary)
The voters experienced long lines, workers who did not understand procedures, voters were unclear of the location of polling places, and the inability of workers certify some voters caused many Floridians to miss the opportunity to vote (Foreman 2001, Executive Summary). Some voters, especially African-Americans, could not vote: “Florida’s overzealous efforts to purge voters from the rolls, conducted under the guise of an anti-fraud campaign, resulted in the inexcusable and patently unjust removal of disproportionate numbers of African American voters from Florida’s voter registration rolls for the November 2000 election” (Foreman 2001, Executive Summary). All of these problems in Florida’s counties caused the 2000 election fiasco.
On election night false reports from news stations announced who won the state of Florida before all the votes were counted, and following their broadcasts began the drawn out process of counting the votes (Prosise 2001). Recounting the ballots was a daunting task that caused many voters to lose faith in the system and on actual winner of the election. Inconsistencies arose over which ballots should be counted and which should not as well as which counties should be recounted. One would assume that this would have been fixed by the next national election in 2004, but a similar situation occurred again in Ohio. There was no recount in the 2004 election which also caused confidence in the system to decline: “Regardless of who really won the 2004 Presidential election, the issues presented go to the very essence of democracy and possibly its survival. The cornerstone of the ‘will of the people’ is the vote […] the credibility of our elections is an issue of concern to all who truly support democracy, and, especially to the country that is supposed to be the example for the world” (Young 2004). The people need to be reassured that their vote counts and that the elections are reliable. The votes in Ohio and in Florida are just two instances of when the United States voting system has failed to be reliable.
These problems have occurred because there is no national recognized right to vote: “Voting in the United States is a ‘state right’ not ‘citizenship right’” (Jackson 2005). The Constitution guarantees that the right to vote cannot be denied because of race, sex, or age by any state in the fifteenth, nineteenth and twenty-sixth Amendments (Young 2004). However, in every state, and even counties, voting regulations are different including who can vote in national elections. In certain states felons can vote, and in others they are not allowed to even after they have served their time: “If you're an ex-felon in eleven states, mostly in the South, you're barred from voting for life. […] But in Maine and Vermont you can vote even if you're in jail” (Jackson 2005). These discrepancies cause confusion and distrust among voters and other countries. The United States is avidly promoting democracy in other nations, but its citizens are losing confidence in the United State’s national elections because of these inconsistencies.
Several acts have taken place in order to help solve the problem, but in light of the 2004 election more needs to be done. In 2002 the Help America Vote Act took effect and researchers were sent to Florida, Missouri, Ohio and Pennsylvania on Election Day to view recent changes and new technology in use or lack of it (Seligson 2004). Dan Seligson stated after viewing the 2004 election: “The vote indicated clearly two things. First, the efforts of Congress and election administrators to fix some problems worked. Second, the country is at the midpoint of election reform” (Seligson 2004). The government is addressing the voting dilemma, but no real action has taken place to correct the entire problem.
Some states have taken reform into their own hands with success. Delaware has created the only uniform voting system, and the state is using electronic voting machines (Calio 2003). Many people feel that electronic voting is not secure and does not leave a paper trail for recounts and allows for tampering, however, this system is secure (Calio 2003). It is not connected to the internet; it is also protected by passwords and records every action that takes place. The paper in the machine and a cartridge record the votes as well as the number on the polling card of the voters (Calio 2003). This system has proven to be very reliable and has not been questioned (Calio 2003). Other states have adopted similar reforms and have also proven successful.
The United States needs to learn from these states who have taken it upon themselves to correct the nation’s voting problem. The nation needs guidelines for national elections. States should be able to decide how to run their own elections, but for national elections there should be uniformity. The country needs to come to a conclusion about who can vote in elections regarding felons and ex-felons. Minority votes need to be protected. Registration requirements and qualifications should be the same in all states as well. Poll workers should all be properly trained in the same manner as other states. Machines should be consistent, reliable and easy to use for all voters. The appropriate amount of workers and machines for each location should be anticipated ahead of time, and the location of polling places should be made apparent. There needs to be a clear definition of how ballots are counted and if any are thrown out, and why. Recounts should be performed in an orderly and time efficient way. All of these things should be consistent for national elections to ensure the trust of the country’s voters and to ensure a fair vote.
Calio, Frank B. 2003. “Voting Machines are Reliable.” [web page] 26 December 2003; http://www.seventy.org/electioninfo/DELAWAREVOICE.html [Accessed 19 April 2005].
Foreman, Michael, Deborah Reid, Peter Reilly, and Audrey Wiggins, and attorney-advisors Barbara de La Viez, Jenny Kim Park, Bernard Quarterman, and Joyce Smith. 2001. “Voting Irregularities in Florida During the 2000 Presidential Election.” [web page] June 2001; http://www.usccr.gov/pubs/vote2000/report/main.htm [Accessed 19 April 2005].
Jackson Jr., Jesse. 2005. “Our Voting System Needs a New Constitutional Foundation.” [web page] 6 January 2005; http://www.commondreams.org/views05/0106-35.htm [Accessed 19 April 2005].
Prosise, Theodore O. and Craig R. Smith. 2001. “The Supreme Court’s Ruling in Bush v. Gore: A Rhetoric of Inconsistency.” Rhetoric & Public Affairs 4.4: 605-632.
Seligson, Dan. 2004. “After Election Voting Issues Remained Unsettled.” [web page] December 2004; http://www.findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m2519/is_10_25/ai_n8583726 [Accessed 19 April 2005].
Young, D. Lindley. 2004. “Blessed are those that thing they do not have to do something about it.” [web page] 13 December 2004; http://themoderntribune.com/blessed_are_those.htm [Accessed 19 April 2005].
You have a clear idea if what you think the problem is and how to solve it but you have not presented much of an argument. Numbers and elaboration would greatly enhance your argumnets. Also, be sure to refrence your sources. I cant tell how much information you have to work with because you havent cited anything but check other peoples sources for additional information. Your paper is also a bit short but expanding your arguments should solve that problem. Also, you might want to restructure your paper. Instead of prefacing your paragraphs with problem and solution try to use transition sentences. Mnemosyne
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