Tuesday, November 04, 2014

Random thoughts on the voting scene

(With apologies to Thomas Sowell)

Today I performed my "civic duty" and voted this afternoon after I got off work. Over the past several years I have developed a healthy and increasing cynicism about politics and politicians, but I haven't quit voting.

The ballot. The ballot was pretty full of statewide and local candidates, as well as one constitutional amendment (and local school board) -- today you could even vote for Quanah Parker and Sam Houston (there's no place like Texas!). I like the idea of voting on constitutional amendments, but it is a pretty anemic process with probably in most cases the electorate having little or no idea on what they are voting. I voted for some Republicans and more Libertarians (no Democrats). The Libertarians fielded a very thorough slate of candidates, in several cases being the only challenger to the Republican candidates. Despite that, the Libertarian party does not win in very many cases. I understand my vote as a sort of expression of my views and a "none of the above" ballot, in the sense that I don't hold out a lot of hope for these guys winning. But, NO, I don't think a vote for who I think ought to win is a wasted vote!

Voter ID law. We voted under the new voter id law, though it may not hold up to further scrutiny. As both a voter and a former election judge, I like it. I don't really understand all the outcry against it. I think both sides do a lot of spinning -- enough to make a normal person dizzy -- which may be more about scoring political points than about expressing the truth. No, there is probably not as much voter fraud as those who support the voter id might want us to think. No, requiring a picture id is not the "new poll tax" to disenfranchise minority votes that the opponents decry it as. Most people already operate with some kind of a picture id, and it's not much of a problem to get one if you don't (and, by the way, you could vote a provisional ballot even if you didn't have it). Yet, that the polls accept concealed handgun licenses but not college IDs may reveal some of the bias of those who drew up the law. But, seriously, shouldn't the poll workers have some way of knowing that the person is a citizen of the state in which he or she is voting? My experience as an election judge was in a small rural voting box. Some one of us (and often all of us) who worked the polls almost always knew the folks who were voting. But if you live in a high population area with lots of folks you aren't familiar with, how do you know that person is really the person holding the cardstock registration card with someone's name on it? That said, I think more of the problems at the polls (and the lists drawn up before we get to the polls) is human error rather than deliberate fraud. From what I've seen, the greatest potential for fraud is in the mail-in ballots. From the standpoint of me the voter, I loved the voter id today. It's hard to keep up with that little card the county mails out and I seldom use. But I always know where my driver's license is! Just match up my DL with the registration on the books and I'm ready to vote. No pain. Much gain.

Electronic voting. One former election judge I worked with would not use the new electronic voting machines. He asked for a paper ballot at every election up until the time he died. I'm not so old and set in my ways to decry the electronic voting as too new-fangled. It speeds up the process in many ways. But...there is one sense of loss. At the end there is only the screen telling you "thank you for voting". There was something final and fulfilling in dropping the paper ballot into the voting box and as you walk out the door!

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