One of those burrs under my saddle blanket is the whole subject of elections starting with the philosophy of “democracy” and extending to the individual actually voting or not voting and the compilation of results. It seems there are troubling aspects at every stage.
First, the notion that all should vote is, to me, fatally flawed. The idea of having someone vote because they are “supposed to” even if they are totally uninformed and disinterested is perverse. I am not sure of a good solution but we could start by discouraging the uninterested instead of encouraging them.
Politicians love to be the “peoples choice” and have people picked up for a ride to the polling place or to help them fill out an absentee ballot. And then there is the whole concept of offering ballot by mail. Making it easy, so to speak. It should not be necessarily easy. A well functioning republic is not populated by lazy people. Freedom is not cheap. Being able to vote does not make the voter smart or informed.
Then, there is the running of the election itself. These polling and counting places are subject to awfully strong, dishonest urges of crooked politicians and government lackeys.
So, there are rules. And there is bureaucracy. There is numbing boredom and sometimes fatigue in poll workers. It is an open invitation to all sorts of chicanery.
Virtually everyone knows that and many, like me, are very alert and sensitive to what goes on when voting.
Which leads to the conclusion that running elections is a delicate, demanding job, which is difficult to perfect, involves lots of moving people parts and enormous sensitivity.
All that came to mind several weeks ago when I got a call from a fellow who said he knew me from several years ago. I told him that I did not remember but asked about the purpose of his call. It was about an upsetting experience he had at the polling place in the primary election. Here’s his story.
Over the past few years I have become increasingly unhappy with politics. I can’t stand the Republicans, nor the Democrats or fringe parties either. Every election, candidates leave me cold if not disgusted. My malaise keeps building up. This year I went to the polling place where I was registered. I took my ballot into the booth behind the curtain, stood there and hummed a tune and tried to make it look like I was marking the ballot.
After a while, I came out and followed instructions by discretely feeding the ballot into a machine. Immediately the machine made a noise of some sort and a signal at the top of the machine started flashing “Blank Ballot.” The attending poll worker immediately approached me and said something like “Your ballot is blank, do you want to do it over?” I was mortified. My protest was exposed. I mumbled, “No it is ok” and left.
I pondered the experience for a few days and called the governor’s office. They referred me to the lt. governor’s office. I was then referred to the Office of Elections. There I was listened to for the third time. The official there had a quick solution — “don’t vote.” That upset me no end because it indicated a complete lack of comprehension from the “professional” elections office.
Here are my thoughts on that:
This man wants his protest to be counted. But he wants his identity to remain unknown. A “secret ballot,” so to speak. Is that too difficult for someone to comprehend? What if the machine had flashed “Voted for Lingle”? What’s the difference?
Then like the fickle finger of fate came my own experience in the General Election. My wife and I went, as usual, together to the polling place. There were two ballots, the second of which was complicated if not incomprehensible. My wife’s native tongue is Vietnamese. She reads English slowly. Consequently, I usually end up waiting for her to finish. This time, however, I came out of the booth and there she was. We went together to exit via the counting machine. I was first and my two ballots went through without a hitch. She put in her first and swish it went through. Then she put in her second. Oops! The signal at the top announced “Blank Ballot” and the poll worker immediately approached with concern. Did she intend to submit a blank ballot? My wife said yes and the poll worker looked perplexed. Before we left I registered a protest with the supervisor of the operation. His response, “The worker was only trying to help.” Again, no recognition of the personal, anonymous, private nature of the act of voting.
My wife was embarrassed because she felt that she was being viewed as incompetent or some such.
What’s the bottom line?
Somehow, somewhere these poll workers and voting professionals have lost sight of their very root function of assuring that the act of voting is irrevocably private, including votes of protest.
This is just one more reason that a mandatory final choice for every elected office should be “None of the above.”
Then, no candidate would ever run unopposed.
But I sure as hell don’t want the machine to flash “None of the above” if I vote that way.
”’Richard O. Rowland is president of the Grassroot Institute of Hawaii, a non-partisan, non-profit public policy institute focused on promoting the free-market, individual freedom and liberty. He is now in his third career; the first culminating in his retirement as a Colonel, U.S. Army Military Police Corps, from the second he retired as a Financial Representative with Northwestern Mutual Network. He has a premonition that any further careers will not be in government service. He can be reached via email at:”’ mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org ”’More information about the Grassroot Institute of Hawaii can be found at its Web site at”’ http://www.grassrootinstitute.org
”’This editorial is intended to provoke thought, discussion and an examination of issues. It does not reflect official policy of the Grassroot Institute of Hawaii. See the GRIH Web site at:”’ http://www.grassrootinstitute.org/
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