Monday, December 22, 2008

A Good Plate With Nothing On It

This comparison chart appeared today in the Washington Post, detailing the pathetic state of "state-of-the-art" voting technology. Based on this, maybe we need to outsource our voting systems to Donald Trump. But, the current focus of Diebold and the insecurity of their touch-screen voting systems seems to cover up a more fundamental and notoriously "low-tech" problem that plagues our voting system: no one votes!

Voter registration and voting numbers in the US are ridiculous. At any one time, only about 70% of Americans who can register to vote actually bother to get registered. Of of those, less than half bother to show up to vote. Children and other ineligible residents included, our elected officials--the ones who get to decide how to use trillions of our tax dollars--are voted into office by less than 20% of Americans. That's right, only one out of five of us really counts, or bothers to stand up and be counted. Local elections are even worse. Cities with tens of thousands of residents have voter roles of mere hundreds, with even fewer turning out to vote. The next time a Delaware town holds an election, take a look at the vote tallies they list in the News Journal. Absolutely absurd!

With a voting public so apathetic, so unmotivated to even voice their political opinions, does it really, truly matter that elections might be stolen or manipulated by faulty electronic voting systems?

Two quotes come to mind on this very issue.

"With great power comes great responsibility." This is that line made famous in the three Spider-Man movies. American democracy places the power to decide, the power to control the system of government, squarely in the hands of the public. This power is one of the fundamental rights granted to us by the US Constitution. But, with this right come the responsibility to use that power justly and appropriately. We all seem to act like a spoiled brat who was born rich and squanders his parents' fortune because he never appreciated all the work it took to get it. We need to reinvigorate that sense of "rights and responsibilities" in our younger generations to get them to show up and vote, and then take some measure of responsibility for what happens in Washington and in Dover.

"90% of life is just showing up." I think Woody Allen said this, and it's more true than we know. Americans' inability to "show up" when it comes to voting and participating in government activities is what can (and has in the past) lead to government leaders who abuse their power and misuse taxpayer money and resources while the public sits mindlessly in front of their TVs. Yes, I know you don't want to miss the premiere of "So you think you can dance," but just for once act like an adult and go to that Town Council meeting or school board meeting and send a message to elected leaders that we're willing to show up and be counted.

So. to bring this back to the original point...let's assume that we fixed our voting system. Let's assume that we made the voting machines secure and accountable and that we didn't have to worry about the dread "hanging chads" ever again. Even then. what's the difference? If there were a perfect election and nobody showed up, do the elected officials still get to spend your tax money? You betcha'!

Kinda' makes that tree falling in the forest question a little deeper now, doesn't it?

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