In the United States of America, there are currently many different systems of registering votes in elections. There is a movement to largely standardize and modernize these voting systems, but further actions must be taken than are currently provided for.
Currently, the main systems of voting are punchcard ballots, lever-based systems, optical scanning machines, and DRE (Direct Recording Electronic) machines. The punchcard ballots are remembered infamously from the 2000 presidential elections in Florida, where every single ballot had to be examined closely by hand to determine how the voter had voted. There was a bill passed in 2002 called the Help America Vote Act, which mandated that the states had to update their voting systems to a national standard, and provide for a voter registration database that was fully searchable and accessible (Congressional Digest, Oct. 2004).
Voting is the strongest symbol of a democracy, as it shows the power that the people have over their government. One of the principles that America has come to espouse firmly is that each individual citizen can show his or her opinion in the election process. The fact that every citizen now has the right to vote means that the registration and voting process should be the same for every citizen. If there are differences made in screening possible votes in different states, how reliable is our voting system? Only by establishing a set of standards for the nation can we really truly achieve unilateral voting rights for our citizenry.
These standards should apply to everyone that is eligible to vote, which are all citizens of the United States that are 18 or older and have not been convicted of a felony. Even felony convictions do not prevent citizens from voting in some states, as they can regain the right to vote after a period of time. Nebraska recently passed a law that states that a felon’s voting rights are reinstated 2 years after completion of their sentence (www.cnsnews.com, 03/12/05). However, care should be taken to ensure that when the validity of voters is checked that as much racial bias should be removed from the process as possible, to ensure that the process is truly democratic in scope and not biased towards any particular agenda or group. This could be done by not including race in the application to vote, or by not doing it in person at all. If voting registration could be done online, on a secure website, then it could eliminate the middle man and get applications straight to the government.
Currently, there are questions about how many people have not been allowed to vote in the previous two elections due to their race. There have been allegations of people turning away minorities at polling places, and of not allowing them to have a real ballot, only a provisional ballot. These provisional ballots count the same as a regular ballot, but they can be thrown out if there is any suspicion of voter fraud. In March 2004 in Chicago, only 7% of provisional ballots were counted (www.naacpnvf.org, 10/28/04). These votes can be not counted for many reasons, and are often used as a tool for those in power to eliminate a lot of votes against them. The fact these provisional ballots exist is a good thing, as if someone’s polling place has changed without them knowing, they can still cast their ballot, albeit only provisionally. Usually, the voter is checked against a database of registered voters, and if they are found to be on the rolls, their vote is kept. However, in the last election, there were too many people trying to register to vote, and not all of them were registered on the rolls of voters, and they had their provisional votes tossed out. A faster system would have helped prevent this problem.
Another thing that should be given a good deal of attention is the security of measures taken to ensure that the vote is not tampered with. As the nation transitions to using electronic voting devices more heavily, there is a possibility that a skilled hacker could possibly use their influence to change or sway the vote. The electronic voting machines are easier to use, and capable of having a much faster cycle time for voting, but they are limited by the fact that anything that is digital can be changed. Thus, there should be systems in place to prevent this happening, by either having a paper trail for each vote, or making each system completely self-contained. The easiest solution would be to simply have the voting machine print out what would basically be a receipt for the vote, so that in instances where there is some doubt about the validity of the numbers recorded, it could be checked by hand. If these additions were made mandatory, electronic voting machines would be much more secure, and much better than old punchcard machines.
The issues of security apply not only to tampering from outside the government. Forces inside the government may try and change the vote to whatever they want. By having the voting system be self-contained, and by making oversight over the voting process a high priority, most internal tampering should be prevented. This issue should not be taken lightly, as anything that could illegally affect the outcome of the vote should be considered and prevented as best as possible.
Therefore, what America needs is to ensure the safety and security not only of it’s people, but also the processes by which we determine who will lead us in the future. If we cannot be absolutely certain of the validity of an election, it can be very difficult to attempt to act as a unified nation. Thus, the current system needs to be brought up to the same standards nationwide, and needs to provide for a growing population, with an increasing amount of registered voters. Also, the voting registration system needs to be upgraded to a national standard that allows voters to register without fear of being racially discriminated against. This registration system should be quickly searchable and accessible at all voting points, so provisional ballots can be approved on the spot, instead of waiting after the election. It is only through having a consistent and thorough voting process across the country that we can produce accurate electoral results.
Jones, Susan. 2005. “Nebraska Lawmakers Restore Felons' Voting Rights”
Webpage: http://www.cnsnews.com//ViewCulture.asp?Page=%5CCulture%5Carchive%5C200503%5CCUL20050311a.html, [ Accessed 04/15/05]
Manjoo, Farhad. 2005. “Third World Democracy.
Web page: http://archive.salon.com/tech/feature/2004/11/18/voting_problems/
2004. “Election System Reform” Congressional Digest Vol.83, Iss. 8-pg.229
Evaluations of StrongBad by Nichi
You seem to have a clear position for your paper however there is very little support. You clearly had to do some research to find out about the types of voting systems and HAVA 2002 but you have not refered to the sources at all. If you want to go more into depth about felons and voting rights you should check out the justice department for numbers of felons in the US. Also, your paper is a bit short. If you expanded each argument the length would be better- Mnemosyne
You make your position clearly known, this is good. But i have to agree with Mnemosyne, you don't have any sources that you show that support your argument, citing sources or adding statistics would do a lot to improve your paper. Delving deeper into how the voting issue works with felons is a novel idea and could help you make a very effective argument directed with the convict population that you have in mind. Roll with it and this could be a very interesting paper. You do need to proof read your paper and refine it a lot however. This is potentially a very interesting paper. - Lou_Dog
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