By tradition, we cast our votes on the first Tuesday in November. We share our experiences with friends and colleagues – the lines, the signs, the gossip – and talk for a few hours about the voting process. Then the results start coming in and there are plenty of other things to talk about.
By tradition, we cast our votes on the first Tuesday in November. We share our experiences with friends and colleagues – the lines, the signs, the gossip – and talk for a few hours about the voting process. Then the results start coming in and there are plenty of other things to talk about
But before we vote again, those who run our elections need to talk a lot more about what happened last Tuesday.
First, there were long lines, in Massachusetts and in many other states. Sure, it’s an encouraging sign of a record voter turnout, but voting shouldn’t require an hour or more spent standing in line. Nor is there any good reason for people to have to rearrange their schedules so they can be in their hometown when the polls are open on a Tuesday.
This year, 32 states and the District of Columbia offered early voting, taking pressure off crowded polling places on Election Day and making the primary obligation of citizenship much easier. Before the next election, Massachusetts should adopt its own early voting system.
Second, while there have been no allegations that anyone tampered with the computerized vote-counting system this time, serious questions have been raised about the security of the electronic tally in Massachusetts and other states. With time running short, the state Legislature was unable to complete consideration of a bill providing for, among other things, a random audit of voting machines to ensure the tallies they produce match the ballots cast.
Before the next election, legislators, working with the Secretary of State’s office, municipal clerks, and experts in computer technology, should take a serious look at the security of the state’s voting systems and put safeguards in place so that we will never question whether our votes were accurately counted.
Third, while predictions that one candidate might win the popular vote but lose in the Electoral College didn’t come true, the Electoral College’s distortion of the democratic process was impossible to ignore. Nearly all the campaigns’ money and attention was focused on nine battleground states, while those of us in the other 41 were relegated to bystanders.
Fifty years ago, 80 percent of Americans lived in a swing states (swing states in the ’60s included California, Texas, New York and Illinois). Today just 20 percent of Americans live in swing states. Whatever the Founders had in mind when they put the Electoral College in the Constitution, they surely didn’t intend to disenfranchise 80 percent of the electorate.
The legislatures of nine states, including Massachusetts, have approved the National Popular Vote, an interstate compact that would render the Electoral College moot and award every presidential election to the winner of the popular vote. Before the next election, enough other states should join them to make every state a battleground.
Page 2 of 2 - Other election issues deserve consideration, including making same-day voter registration possible here in Massachusetts. Requiring a photo ID for voting is a pressing issue for some, despite the lack of evidence that voting fraud is a problem. But as long as a system is devised through which voters can easily obtain the IDs, perhaps the next time they vote, we’re not opposed. But the emphasis should include not just preventing ineligible residents from voting, but also cleaning and maintaining the voter database to prevent anyone from voting more than once.
Finally, there is the legacy of Citizens United. Never has so much been spent on an election, with the sources of millions of dollars in campaign cash hidden from public view. Some of the biggest donors didn’t get much return on their investment, at least in the presidential race, but there’s no doubt the tidal wave of secret political donations undermines the foundation of democracy.
Before the next election, Congress must provide for greater disclosure of campaign contributions or, better yet, find a way to overturn the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision entirely.