We're Not In Pine Brook Anymore

new york looks prettiest from new jersey

See the girl in the middle of this photo? 

That's me, at age 17, in the lobby of Montville Township High School. (Go Mustangs!)

I'm all hopeful and smiley, sitting next to my BFF. Look at my hair! Total Jersey.

Now, look at the signs behind me.

Vote!

That was 1991. And I’ve voted in every presidential, senatorial, gubernatorial, and mayoral race since 1992.

Fast forward to today – Election Day 2012. My hair is flatter and my hope has been replaced by frustration.

But this post isn’t about WHO should be president for the next 4 years (if you know me, you know who I voted for). It’s not even about urging citizens to exercise their right to vote (which they totally should). It’s about something bigger than electing the leader of the free world.

It’s about the process itself.

Our voting system is beyond broken. Somebody, please fix it.

This morning, I arrived at PS166 at 8:45, and FINALLY cast my vote sometime around 11:15. For anybody who likes to count, that's two and a half hours later...

I know this year's election had extenuating circumstances from the hurricane.  But the length of time I waited didn't have to do with voter turnout.  It had inefficiency (and chaos) written all over it.  During this time I spent on disorganized lines, which snaked around city blocks, stairways, lunch tables, and a gymnasium, I saw the following:
  • A guy that lives in my building who got tired of waiting on line was given a ballot in the middle of the gym. No ID check, no signing the book.  So much for registered voters.
  • A guy was confused on how to fill the ballot out. He leaned over to the stranger next to him, who told him just to fill in the circle for Obama. He said ok. So much for no campaigning within 200ft of a polling place.
  • A man and a woman sat together on a bench next to the check-in table for my district (#11). While I was showing my ID, he filled out his ballot. Then he filled HERS out while she stared off into space. When I told the volunteer (who sat 3ft from the couple) what I was witnessing, she shrugged. "Nothing I can do," she said. So much for election inspectors keeping things on the up-and-up.
  • A volunteer who took my completed ballot reviewed my choices, then said, "you can go" before the machine accepted my vote.  So much for privacy.

It should be easier to vote now than at any other time in history, but it’s not. We can do better than this!

Here's my 3-step fix:

1. Privatize:
It needs to be said.  Elections should be run by impartial voting agencies (preferably from the private sector), NOT elected officials. If the majority of the world runs this way, why can’t the USA?

2. Modernize:
I vote in NY, which recently upgraded from giant metal-lever voting machines circa 1950 to Scantron machines circa 1980. I took my SAT with those things! This is 2012, right? Why are we waiting on interminable lines? Why did someone steal the tethered pen in my voting “booth,” leaving me to root around in my purse to find nothing to write with but a tin of Altoids and a tampon? If I can deposit a check into my bank account using my cell phone, why can’t I vote online?  Get with the times!

3. Standardize:
Let's get the whole country on the same page. Primary elections? They should be held twice – once with all candidates, and once with the top 2 – simultaneously across the country, not winding down over months and months like a political game of chicken. Early voting? Every state should have it – or not – and for the same set amount of time. Machines? Everyone should use the same kind. Election Day? Should be a holiday so everyone can get there. And identification? This one’s simple – require it. Everywhere. You can’t get a beer without an ID! Critics say it’s costly or folks don’t have enough time to get one. Think 4 YEARS is enough to scrape together a few bucks and the time?


Bonus: While I'm fixing stuff, let's get rid of the Electoral College and go to a popular vote so a handful of swing states aren't given the power to decide the fate of an election for the entire country.

So, what do YOU think?  In pure democratic fashion, here's a poll.  On the internet.  I'll check IDs later...

tags: holidays, politics, polls
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1 comments:

Jessica said...

I vote for more pictures of you from the 1980's because this one is like totally awesome :P