The mid-term congressional election just concluded seemed as though it lasted two years, which in a way, it did.
House members serve two-year terms, so once a winner is declared, for all intents and purposes, the newly-elected member of Congress starts campaigning for the next mid-term vote. Even members of the Senate, who are elected to six-year terms, never really get far from the campaign trail.
That fact is not likely to change, but one aspect of voting in national elections needs to change — some kind of uniformity for ensuring a valid vote count, instead of the mess we saw in so many states in the aftermath of the Nov. 6 voting.
Let’s face it, leaving voting procedures up to individual states to decide has produced a huge mess. Florida seems to be the election foulup poster child, but the Sunshine State is not lacking for company:
Election officials in several Maryland counties failed to print enough ballots to satisfy the needs of registered voters, and there weren’t enough ballots in dozens of precincts. New York City’s two-sheet ballot jammed voting machines. Georgia had a problem with voters failing to provide personal data, resulting in a severely tainted governor’s vote count. Florida had its modern equivalent of the infamous hanging-chad problem that sent the 2000 presidential election to the U.S. Supreme Court, this time forcing recounts in the governor and senate races.
And the list goes on. The question is, how can this be fixed? These lingering election disasters do nothing to instill confidence in citizens that our big elections are fair. In 22 of our states, elections are overseen by one, party-affiliated person, heightening the potential for claims of vote manipulation.
We’re no big fan of a Big Brother approach to every problem, but the fact is that this nation needs a simplified, standardized voting policy, at least when federal offices are being voted on.
We are very much in favor of states being free to set their own rules on many things, but not when it comes to federal elections. There needs to be a standard, which should help boost Americans’ confidence that the final outcome is fair and unsullied by partisan politics.
Among the standardized rules should be an extended window of opportunity for voters. America has outgrown the one-day-at-the-polls era. Standing in line for hours, waiting to vote, is neither smart nor fair, especially for working Americans.
An effort should be made to de-politicize the offices of those chosen to oversee elections. For example, in 66 of Florida’s 67 counties election bosses are elected by party. Election offices should be made nonpartisan, which has been the case for most school board and city council races nationwide.
Our elected leaders should refrain from claiming such things as an “honest vote count is no longer possible …” That sort of unsubstantiated grandstanding is not only a threat to a fair election, but has the potential to cause lasting damage to our democracy.
Unfortunately, the very core of the election process is a partisan matter. Republicans seem most concerned about voter fraud, while Democrats generally seek the elimination of voting barriers, to make the process more all-inclusive.
The fact is, both beliefs are valid. We all should want fair elections, and we all should want to draw in as many eligible voters as possible. A strong, lasting and resilient democracy demands both fairness and inclusion.
Perhaps the newly-elected members of Congress will recognize the need to improve election procedures.