Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Re: Overblown Fears of Disenfranchisement?

I disagree with Jamelle’s assertion that surely whistleblowers would say something if a voter disenfranchisement scheme were afoot. Granted, Robert Kennedy’s conspiracy theory about Ohio in 2004 has largely been debunked (with a response from him). But voting isn’t really an exact science. Some voters will be disenfranchised this election season. The question is how many.

We’re basically talking about a lot of new information that has to be entered very quickly. (Ultimately, I agree with Brian Beutler that we should have some kind of automatic registration rather than a voluntary system.) The people that do this are paid a low hourly wage or are even volunteers in many voting precincts. With all the new voters registered this year, there are bound to be some mistakes. Whether or not this is a concerted, systematic effort or just some sloppy incompetence is hard to say, but I wouldn’t necessarily count on whistleblowers to sound the alarm, since so many potential whistleblowers are ad hoc volunteers and temporary employees on the lowest levels.

Part of the problem is the state-level Secretary of State, responsible for each state’s entire voting operation, is always a partisan position. The person in each of those offices has been endorsed by one party or another, but ultimately can impact who gets into an office. Even though it’s possible to conduct your job in a non-partisan manner even if you have larger political ambitions, it doesn’t really seem that the Secretary of State should be a partisan position.

To me, this is a highly bureaucratic position that should be reserved for, well, bureaucrats. Instead of electing people to this position every four years we should make sure we keep people in these positions who are experts on the complicated nature of voting machines, paper ballots, coordinating thousands of one-day volunteers, and keeping voter rolls updated. It’s a complex, logistical job that only gets one shot–Election Day. It’s understandable that people are worried that this job might be conducted improperly.

Cross posted at Pushback.

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