Friday, October 24, 2008

The System Is The Fraud

Let's face it: The United States is a mess when it comes to elections.

Things started to visibly unravel in the 2000 election, which was decided by the Supreme Court and by the Florida Secretary of State, who had served as Florida's Bush campaign co-chair. If the same thing had happened in, say, the Ukraine or Liberia, international observers would have flocked to the site and monitored the inevitable remake. But the United States has a superiority complex, so no one will admit that the system itself is the fraud.
  • The use of malfunctioning (or rigged) machines
  • Vote suppression efforts
  • Unequal distribution of voting equipment to favor one party over another
  • Long lines at polling stations
  • Voting on a workday rather than on the weekend, and for a very limited number of hours (not all states allow early voting)
  • The remaking of electoral districts along partisan lines
  • The diversity and the varying efficacy of voting methods
  • The exclusion of small party candidates from the presidential debates
  • The tolerance for gigantic conflicts of interest (such as CEOs of voting equipment proclaiming their preference for a party or a candidate, secretaries of state that act as chairs of a candidate's campaign.)
  • Courts are routinely called to solve disputes that should not even exist in the first place
These things are not a distortion of the system--they are the system.

Additionally, for a country that prides itself on being a beacon of democracy, participation in elections is ridiculously low. Voter participation in excess of 60% is considered an example of healthy democracy. The system is besieged by potential and real fraud and is run along partisan lines.

I grew up in Italy, where elections have been afflicted by a variety of problems (mainly accusations of ballot box stuffing and fraud).

Yet, Italy has an enviable election system compared to the one in the United States. The number of voters consistently exceeds 80% and approaches 90% on most general elections.

In Italy, I never had to stand in line to vote for more than 15-20 minutes. Elections are held on Sunday, 7 a.m. to 10 p.m., and on Monday from 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. This gives all people, including those who have religious hang-ups about voting on Sunday, a chance to cast their vote.

Paper ballots, easily countable and verifiable, are still used.

The Italian electoral system is not perfect, but "going Italian" would be a step forward for American elections.

There are many things to like about America, most people would agree. But the way elections are run is an example to be avoided.

I will never get tired of repeating this: Nov 5 is the day when we need to roll up our sleeves and fix this broken system, once and for all, so we never have to live through another election period dominated by suspicion and fear of disenfranchisement.

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