Friday, November 9, 2018

Pulling the Lever, Filling the Oval


Watching the news coverage of the election returns Tuesday night, and the aftermath on social media, one thing struck me above all talk of a "blue wave" and the advancement of women and minorities in politics. What was graphically exposed once again were the shortcomings of the election process, from redistricting to faulty voting machines, to long lines, severe or substantially inclement weather, and inaccessibility of polling locations. All of this is inexcusable for a country that purports to be a democracy.

Interestingly, if not ironically, many states took steps to improve the election system, through measures that were on their ballots. Florida granted former felons the right to vote, unless they committed a sex crime or murdered someone. Here in Colorado, we overwhelmingly approved Amendments Y and Z to the state constitution, creating unbiased citizen committees to draw the districting maps in a fashion that does not favor one political party over another. We did that via mail-in or drop-off ballot voting. Wow, what a concept, to dispense with the archaic polling locations, at a time of year when we could have a Rocky Mountain blizzard on election day.

Back in the day (whenever "the day" was, it is all relative I suppose), there may have been good reasons for each state, or even county, to set up its own election day procedures, draw district maps the way they did, register voters, and otherwise service a largely sedentary, if not rural, population of the electorate. There are some aspects of our culture that do well to recognize and follow history, however ancient, but voting should not be one of them. Today, with our mobile society, we desperately need standardization of election rules. You should be able to arrive in your new state and county of residence and know exactly how to register yourself to vote, including exactly what pieces of identification are required, on the first try, minimal hoops to jump through.

Once you are registered, you should not have to worry about where to report to exercise your right to vote. Mail-in ballots should be the norm. Why? You have plenty of time to go over your ballot, and do your due diligence in researching the candidates and issues. You need not concern yourself with the weather on election day. You do not need to fear that you will show up at the wrong polling place, or that it will be closed, or there will be long lines....I understand the appeal of exercising your civic duty socially, in public, but this method is now being exploited by nefarious parties to advance agendas not endorsed by the electorate. Time to rectify that.

No voting system is going to be foolproof, nor impervious to hackers nor immune to other glitches of technology and human error, but evidence and repeated experience suggests that voting machines cannot be trusted, especially when their manufacturers are in bed with one political party.

Then there is enduring hostile poll workers who take it upon themselves to harass voters, if not outright evict them from polling locations. Frankly, there should be minimal requirements for identification, and of course mail-in ballots again dispense with this kind of confrontation. Voting should not be stressful, let alone embarrassing or demeaning. All of that can take place on Facebook or Twitter. I'm kidding, there is no place for that kind of....attitude.

It should not be obvious that your particular voting district(s) lean toward one party or another, and your suspicions should be aroused if the district has a long history of domination by either Republicans or Democrats. I'm not even sure why we need so many districts, or why they are independent of, say, school districts. The geography of politics these days amounts to urban versus rural, and that divide needs to heal as quickly as possible, too. Our collective dialogue, when it comes to candidates and governing policy, needs to refrain from legislating morality and concentrate instead on addressing needs common to all citizens regardless of whether they live in a suburb or on a farm.

Gerry needs to stop mandering, and realize that democratic elections cannot take place when you rig the system. "But we've always done it this way" is now a euphemism for racism, bigotry, voter suppression, and a last gasp at preserving a status quo that is circumventing the will of the People. Yes, it is that plain and simple, like how voting should be.

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