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  • Thursday, November 04, 2004


    An Outsider's View of the Election

    Some astute observations of US election process. From AlterNet: Election 2004: An Outsider's View:

    I believe my Argentine colleague, Horacio Boneo -- a veteran United Nations elections observer -- said it best when he pointed out that while the U.S. has a terrific democracy, it has a terrible electoral system.

    For example, one aspect of the U.S. electoral system that our observer delegation found deeply disturbing is the partisan oversight and administration of elections. The secretaries of state are elected on a partisan platform and hold office as either Democrats or Republicans, as do most county clerks. This is a major departure from the global norm. In most other democracies, the elections are overseen by non-partisan commissions, which gives voters confidence that narrow interests won't manage the elections for their own ends. Here in the U.S., partisan electoral management has led to accusations of bias, especially in Florida and Ohio. Regardless of whether the allegations are true, their mere existence creates the perception of partisan mismanagement, eroding public faith in the system.

    Several other facets of U.S. elections caught our attention. We were disappointed that touch screen voting machines -- which nearly one in three voters will use this year -- do not provide a paper trail. We were confused as to why the public financing of the presidential race -- in which each candidate receives up to $70 million -- is not duplicated for House and Senate races, a reform which would surely improve voter confidence. And we were distressed by the laws in eight states that permanently disenfranchise felons even after they have completed their sentences, laws that we felt create subcategories of citizenship.

    We were also troubled to find that there are no provisions in most state laws for non-partisan poll observation. The Democrats choose a poll watcher and the Republicans choose theirs. But who represents the ininterests of the voting public at large, including the growing number of citizens who are registered as Independents?

    The lack of mechanisms for non-partisan poll observation has been dramatically illustrated to our delegation as officials in about half the counties we plan on watching on Election Day have denied our requests to enter polling places. The denials are unfortunate, since they needlessly arouse suspicions that officials have something to hide.

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