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The Cold Filtered Ramblings of Gene Mueller

Something few people bring up when it comes time to talk about protecting your vote

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Want to turn a quiet corner bar or a suburban cocktail hour into a hockey fight? 

Bring up Voter ID.

Countless trees have been felled, googoobites of digital data expended and an entire atmosphere worth of oxygen have been burned debating/arguing the issue.   I won't be solving the issue here, but instead bring up a point I think all can agree on, one that few people ever bring up when talking about the sanctity of our most cherished right.

What about the integrity of the voting process?  

Little by little, in dibs and dabs, we get the occasional story about wrong ballots, faulty machines, inept officials.  Are they as sexy as "smokes for votes" or the dead coming back to life to vote?   No, but they are very much an issue, one that threatens the validity of the count and, most importantly, the right of each and every one of us to make our votes count.

Say "Florida" to someone this time of year and what comes to mind?  Sunshine and snowbirds?   Negative.  The mere mention of the state brings to mind images of the late Tim Russert with his white board, pictures of hanging chads and that guy with the goofy glasses and the chaos that was the 2000 presidential election. 

Of the many flaws in our electoral process revealed during those tumultuous, indecisive weeks was the fact that we had no issue casting votes but a real problem when it came time to count them.  

A decade passed and you'd think those issues would've been resolved, right?   Not so.

"A month of primary recounts in the election battleground of Palm Beach County, Florida has twice flipped the winner in a local judicial race and revealed grave problems in the country's election infrastructure, including thousands of misplaced ballots and vote tabulation machines that are literally unable to produce the same results twice," says an article I found Friday morning at wired.com.  "Experts say the brew of administrative bungling and mysterious technological failures raises new and troubling questions about the county that played a crucial role in the 2000 presidential election debacle, and is one of a handful of counties considered pivotal in the upcoming presidential election.   Voting advocates are fearful that problems here--and perhaps in other election hot spots--could trigger a replay of the disputed 2000 election."

Just what this fractured, divisive, red-or-blue-with-no-shade-of-gray-tolerated nation needs.

It's not just Florida.   Friday's Christian Science Monitor says there are issues with e-machines in four states, some of them considered "battlegrounds".    There are just 11 days left to fix these glitches as I write this--think that's enough time to iron out any bugs?

Waukesha had famous issues with getting vote counts right, problems that presumably have been fixed but issues that put a Wisconsin Supreme Court election in limbo.   It happened here.   Will it occur elsewhere?

Early voting complicates the process or, at the very least, opens fresh opportunities for gremlins to screw with the process.   There are already issues in the DC area.

Chads.  Touch-screens.  Pen and paper.  The old-fashioned red-handled booth full of levers.  There's no universal system by which we vote in the US, the technologies and techniques changing from town to town, suburb to suburb.   Why?   Should there be a uniform method, simple and free of potential glitches, a one-size-for-all method by which each and every vote gets equal treatment with a non-existent chance of being miscounted/discarded?

Worry all you want about voter ID.   Most minds are already made up.  A presidential race grew closer and closer the past month and still has a week and a half to play out.   It could come down to mere handful of votes deciding which way a state (or several states) go.   Does reading any of the stories I linked above give you qualms about the nuts and bolts of our vote-counting process?

If not, it should.

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