Yes, Florida has done it again. After the election controversy in 2000, spending millions on election reforms and promising endlessly to improve the quality of the voting process in the state, Florida has managed to create yet another controversy, this one perhaps worse than the first.
This time, in addition to there being a very close race for the democratic gubernatorial primary, there's reports of ballots being torn in the automatic readers, computer equipment not being installed properly, people being handed the wrong ballots, election workers not showing up and some polling stations not even opening until one in the afternoon. Even one of the candidates, Janet Reno, had to wait over one hour to cast her vote because her assigned polling station was delayed in opening due to these "technical difficulties."
I only have one question for Florida and its election officials, "How hard is it to run an election? Really?"
Let's think about this for a second, the other 49 (save Louisiana, which had dead people voting in the late 90's) states manage to hold elections every two years without a glitch. I myself have voted three times and never been confronted with a confusing ballot, a late-to-open polling station or rude/unhelpful workers (though the candidates are another issue) and I'm from South Carolina, supposedly one of the poorest and dumbest states in the nation.
I will grant that we, as a nation, have been very hard on Florida because they were the deciding factor in the last presidential election. But while the race was close and the presidency was decided by less than 1,000 votes, Florida's problems didn't exactly help instill faith in the legitimacy of our new President and when you throw in the fact that his brother is governor of the state, the cat calls of "Hail to the Thief" seem quite understandable.
But then there's this. From the looks of things, even when the nation's spotlight isn't on Florida, the election is much smaller and the results much less important, things STILL fall apart. I mean, if you can't get a simple primary election right, how am I supposed to have any confidence in your presidential results?
The truth is that I can't and as a voter I've never felt more angry and disenfranchised from the whole election process as I do right now. I'll forgive the fact we have our Presidents decided by an electoral college and not by popular vote (otherwise, Gore would be our President). I'll ignore the fact we have only two parties when most feel a four or five-party system would be more fair. But the fact some yahoos in Florida can't even count their votes right, really casts doubts on the whole idea of democracy in America.
But this whole thing also raises some pretty mind-boggling questions for the nation.
First, how can we have any faith in an electoral college when big, election-deciding states like Florida seem to have a real problem collecting votes? How do we as Americans feel about the arbitrariness that our greatest right, the right to vote, is being handled with? Finally, the big one, why hasn't our election process been brought into the 21st century?
Think about it, my computer, as slow and old as it is, has the needed processing power to tally all of the results for the entire nation. It's nothing more than simple addition. The only things that would be needed to make this happen would be a standard electronic voting system that would tally the results instantly as they are received and a nation-wide intranet that would connect counties to states and states to a central point thus allowing the results to be compiled and figured.
The advantages of this are obvious, no more "with 90% of precincts reporting", no more room for human error and the only votes that wouldn't be counted as they were sent in would be absentee ballots. Beyond that, the minutes the polls closed, you'd know who won or lost, but of course, in nation-wide elections you would withhold those results until all the polls across the nation closed down.
Would this system be expensive? Yes. Would it pose security problems? Yes. But both of these items can be overcome and given the importance of voting to our way of life and the rights we hold dear, I think the risks of not stepping forward outweigh the risks of doing so.
Because unless we do, situations like the one in Florida are going to be more and more common and it's likely further elections could be marred by controversial results and polling difficulties, two items which can so easily be avoided.
But while this is something we must do as a nation, at best, such a solution is many years down the road due to the sheer size of such a project. So in the meantime, Florida, get it right in November. Ok.
I don 't think I or the voters are asking too much of you, just what we were promised in the constitution…