What’s the rush?: Count votes by hand

Published 15 years ago -  - 15y ago 34


After month upon months, almost a full year, of boring us to death with their promises, attack ads, gossip, and debates on topics they somehow decided were most important, what’s another week or so? Why should we rush to get election results on the same day we vote?

Politicians are anxious to get the results. There’s no doubt about that. After raising and spending millions on their campaigns, polls, focused groups, speeches, debates, travel, and months of time and effort, it’s only natural that they want to see the results. But patience is also a virtue we expect in our leaders and look what they dragged us through…

Mostly, it’s the newshounds that want instant gratification. News is the only industry where everybody is “number one” or “first with the news.” And we’ve all seen the disasters and embarrassment that can cause. Remember the last presidential election with its ridiculous exit polls trying to anticipate the vote by a few hours? Remember Bernard Shaw?

It’s about time that we told them all to stick it. It’s about time they understood that the American people are more interested in honesty, accuracy, and getting rid of the chance to cheat. From Tammany Hall to today, we’ve had enough of their shenanigans.

Four years ago, we saw what mid-century technology can do to an election. We don’t want another two months of hanging chads and legal wrangling.

Computers are wonderful devices, but is there anyone who doesn’t believe they can be hacked, subverted to evil purposes by evildoers, especially when there’s no paper trail?

Elections are too important to be left in the hands of unproven and penetrable technology of any sort.

Let’s go back to the days of paper ballots and a box with a slit on top where we all insert our folded votes.

It wouldn’t be difficult.

We’ve already got a number of volunteers who work in every precinct in the nation on Election Day. These are usually octogenarians who were schooled in the days before hand calculators and very capable of simple counting. Let’s supply them with those rubber finger tips and pay them handsomely for their time hand counting ballots.

Believe me, I’m something of an expert in this sort of thing. When I started out in the research world, I worked as a grunt counting questionnaires. Later, I ran the production department for an independent market research firm in Chicago where we hand counted thousands of questionnaires a day, some with open ended questions that had to be coded before they could be counted. I only had five or six people working with me and the analysts were always anxious for the results.

Fortunately, election ballots are, or should be made, as simple as possible. No open ended questions and no cross tabulations. Everything is a check off. They should be simple enough that everyone who speaks English, a rudimentary requirement for citizenship, should understand how to fill them out even if they’re from Palm Beach.

The first thing you do is establish the base number of votes. You do this by passing out a roughly equal number of ballots to each person counting. Then they count how many ballots they’ve each got, not once but at least twice. As a result, the number of people who voted is the first result.

From there, you do the same thing with each question probably starting with presidential choices. If the numbers don’t add up to the base number of ballots, then you count them again and again until they do.

We could even sequester the precinct workers in luxury until the job is done. Until we’ve been through everything on the ballot from presidential voting to local referendums.

In the smaller precincts, we would have presidential results in no time. The media can start reporting—and “now we take you to Wolf Blitzer in Caledonia, Illinois, Katie Curic in Twin Oaks, Wisconsin, or Paula Zahn in Ohatchee, Alabama, where the votes are in.” They can even do the big cities like Los Angeles or New York precinct by precinct if they want to spare the time from the Michael Jackson saga and have a field day with who gets there first.

We can even include some higher technology if we want to pass ballots through a scanner before people place them in the ballot box. This would give the poll watchers an opportunity to let someone vote again if he or she mistakenly checked too many boxes.

In the end, the media will love the build-up. And if anyone wants a recount, or wants a cross tabulation like how many women voted for so-and-so, they can pay for it. The precinct workers will appreciate the added income.

We’ll end up with an accurate count and get it faster than the Pony Express delivered results in the old days. After all, if you can’t trust your grandparents who can you trust?


Published originally at EtherZone.com : republication allowed with this notice and hyperlink intact.”

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