Sunday, November 09, 2008

The Election Isn't Over Yet

It would be too easy, now that Barack Obama has been elected the next president of the United States, and that Democrats have seen gains in both chambers of Congress, to pretend that there is nothing wrong with the United States electoral system. What has transpired as a triumph of American democracy. Far from it.

I personally witnessed a ridiculous incident in Denver, where one polling place was missing the voting rolls for all voters with last names beginning with letters from G to S when the polls opened, which meant that the identity of any of the good people that stood in line at 7 a.m. could not be verified. They were told they could vote using a provisional ballot, or return to the polls later. I say it is a ridiculous incident because this election was highly anticipated and there is no excuse for unpreparedness on this scale, regardless of which party might have been hurt the most by it.

As Rachel Maddow pointed out on her MSNBC show, being forced to stand in line for hours in order to cast one's vote is equivalent to an implicit poll tax. What poor American, making the minimum wage, can afford to take a whole day off to carry out his or her civil right? (What poor American could afford not too, given the choice of candidates?)

Brad Blog, the website devoted to election integrity monitoring, reported several instances of vote flipping, almost all of which favored Republican over Democratic candidates.

Voters in several states were purged off the voter rolls due to a practice called "caging", first revealed by investigative reporter Greg Palast on his website, which consists of deleting off the voter rolls anyone whose address is not verified after he or she has been sent a do-not-forward notice to a no longer valid address.

And, in case you did not know, the election isn't over yet in Alaska, and it isn't over in Minnesota, where at least two U.S. Senate races are too close to call. (Begich v. Stevens in Alaska, and Franken v. Coleman in Minnesota.)

Brad Friedman has a piece called Alaska Stinks, And Minnesota's On Edge. You should read it. Then you will understand why, as I said a long time ago, the real work of election reform in the United States needs to go on, because we cannot afford to vote the same way we did this time four years from now, no matter the result. Because democracy is not about winning: it is about making sure that the will of the people is recorded accurately, no matter what the outcome is. Without that guarantee, democracy loses its meaning.

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