The Spectre of Math

November 3, 2008

Elections

Filed under: Politics — jlebl @ 11:48 pm

One thing that continually boggles my mind is how much of a mess is the election in the US. For a country that thinks of itself as the “beacon of democracy” it is strange that the process is so tangled and odd. I can only compare to Czech Republic where I also have a lot of familiarity with the system (is it actually possible to be familiar with the US system if it is different in every state and to some degree in every county?). I will not list the many problems with Czech election system. It has it’s own set of issues, but they don’t have to do with the physical election, but rather with what do you do with the numbers. There are very few people who feel disenfranchised, or who feel that the vote totals are manipulated. The process of getting those vote totals and making sure that everyone can vote is completely transparent, and vast majority of the electorate is happy with how the elections happened, even if they are not happy with the outcome. What’s a mess over there is what you do with the vote totals afterwards, that’s for another time.

  1. Voter registration: this is very strange. Why is this registration different from anything else. I still don’t see a problem with national id card and database that every citizen needs to be part of. There are already many such databases, why not have just a single one for voting, social security, etc…
  2. Huge lines. There is something fundamentally wrong with the system. There should be a way to prepare the ballot at home or some such. Voting in Czech takes a few minutes at most, you can prepare the ballot at home, at the polling place they just check your id, you go to a private booth where you can do any last change on the ballot, then you stuff it into a box.
  3. How come it is the party currently in office who oversees the elections. That just seems wrong on so many levels.
  4. Why are some citizens not allowed to vote? (for example felons, but that could include crimes which are not universally accepted as “bad” such as drug related offenses.) This make the voter registration process so much more messy since you suddenly have to worry about eligibility, and some state official who happens to be a member of one or the other party makes those decisions.

In the end, I think that statistically, if we assume that errors and corruption are relatively equally distributed among parties, then the outcome is (statistically speaking) reasonably close to the “will” of the electorate. But the fact that it’s a mess leads to a significant part of the electorate thinking that the election can be (or was) “stolen.” One can assume that after tomorrow, there again will be a large set of people who will believe that the vote totals have been manipulated, and most likely to a certain degree they are in fact right.

On the other hand, if you had the process be completely transparent, things would become lot more boring.

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