Monday, October 20, 2008

Scandal v. Incompetence

Minneapolis, Minnesota

CNN often promotes its team of pundits by airing a video clip of Lou Dobbs posing the question "Doesn't anybody deserve a government that works?" When it comes to conducting presidential elections, one wonders.

Early voting started in Florida today, as it has and will in many states. Already, there are problems. Not with the voting per se (at least, not yet – stay tuned). It seems that some of the machines into which voters insert their driver's licenses to verify identity and prevent fraud are not working. As a result, people are standing in line for up to three hours waiting to vote.

Surely, Kurt S. Browning, Florida's secretary of state and chief elections officer, knew that voting would start today. Why did he not have these machines tested and in working order? Cue the allegations of voter suppression and bring on the lawyers! Because Browning is a Republican, appointed to his post in 2006 by Florida's Republican governor-elect, Charlie Crist, you just know these snafus are only the beginning of a Republican plot to steal the election for John McCain.

Up in Ohio, the Democratic secretary of state, Jennifer Brunner, already has been through the federal appeals process to the Supremes in Washington. In essence, the high court said that voter registration lists did not have to be verified against the database of driver's licenses. Hopefully, however, Brunner will have instructed her election judges to phone the cops and the media should Mickey Mouse or other suspect registrants actually show up to vote. Everyone will be watching because, you just know, the Democrats stand ready to fraudulently steal the election for Barack Obama.

You just know. Eight years after Bush v. Gore, the United States of America still cannot conduct a presidential election free from the taint of voting scandal or plain incompetence.

The whole mess is foreign to me. In Minnesota, where I vote, we fill in oval blanks on a paper ballot to indicate our voting preferences before we personally feed those ballots into a machine that counts them. Before the election judges give us a ballot, we sign our names next to our name and address on the computer printout of the registration list. Those of us who can produce sufficient identification – that proves we-are-who-we-are and live-where-we-do – can register and vote on election day. We have the highest rate of voter participation in the country, and we make it work every time.

In our primary election balloting in September, two candidates for the Minnesota Supreme Court were so close in vote totals that a statewide re-count was required for the first time since 1962. Election officials surprised even themselves by accomplishing the task in two days, rather than the several they had allotted. There were no partisan or non-partisan arguments about the process or the outcome.

Maybe in Minnesota we just understand the meaning of "Yes we can!"

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