Foreign affairs.

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A brief pop-in to let everyone know that I’m still alive and, apparently, still incapable of sitting down and writing without a daily obligation.

Well, that and to talk about elections. I expect y’all have figured out how I’d vote in the U.S. presidential elections (with much of the rest of the world), but I would like to request some clarity in the methods of voting down there.

(I’m not trying to sound all snobby about this, I swear; it’s just Foreign Person Curiosity. Goodness knows that our system is a fucking disaster in many ways. Our prime minister got his job, and his party got a majority of the House of Commons, with only 39% of the vote, for example.)

  1. Why are the queues so long? Surely, there should be enough polling stations for every citizen to vote on election day, so why, assuming the turnout is as low as it’s been in the last few elections (no more than 58% in the last 40 years), is it so hard to vote? I have never had more than a fifteen minute wait, even when I haven’t voted in the early polls. (Our turnouts are shit too, BTW.)
  2. Why is it so hard to vote? I’m not talking about the Hurricane Sandy situation, and, really, I have no right to call this a uniquely American problem as I’ve heard some (very, very few, mind) wacko stories from Canada too, but that citizens have to worry about being disenfranchised because of new ID rules or just plain ridiculous bureaucracy is mindboggling. (Also see the slideshow here.)
  3. Why the machines some places? And why do they vary from state to state? I know the hanging chad ridiculousness has ended, but still, a pen and a paper ballot (with Braille, of course) is the ultimate in democracy as far as I’m concerned. It’s not that I don’t trust machines, but I don’t trust people to use them correctly.
  4. It’s weird to vote for things like coroner and sheriff. Okay, that’s not a question. It does seem awfully strange to an outsider, though.

I have to be at work at 7 tomorrow morning, so I won’t be able to drink myself into a coma while watching election coverage, which will limit my enjoyment a touch. But hey, we’ve all got problems.

To my American friends, good luck today. I hope you voted, and did so thoughtfully, regardless of whom and what you’ve chosen.

To the lovely Erica, the best of everything today with the Scary Medical Thing. Wishing you the speediest of recoveries.

3 thoughts on “Foreign affairs.

  1. One of the reasons for the long queues are all the different things they have to vote on in some states. Besides the sheriff and coroner,etc. they also have a number of propositions as well. Since I’ve never voted here(US citizen) I assume you vote for your local MP and your on your way??

  2. megan

    Even if you have to vote for many things, I think the system should be set up to account for that because that’s the standard, by either adding polling stations or extending voting hours.

    And yeah, here, it takes about two minutes to vote, from registration to dropping the ballot in a box (or putting it in the scanning machine).

  3. Katy

    The states control how elections are carried out, and there is also county or town/city control in some places, so practices can vary quite a bit from place to place. I waited for maybe half an hour to vote in 2008, but I went before work, and it was a presidential election, so I expected it. There were just a lot of people there. I have never waited as long before or since. Yesterday I didn’t wait at all, and I can walk to the polling place from the house. Jay and I were talking about this yesterday, and we decided that we’re just lucky to live in a place with well-run elections. Some jurisdictions just don’t do a good job. You could argue that it’s for political reasons in some places, and in others I think they’re just disorganized, but then again, I know a ton of people who were voting on Long Island and in the city yesterday under circumstances that were at best unusual, and there didn’t seem to be problems, whereas in Florida, voting itself is a massive problem each and every time there’s an election.

    In Massachusetts, we don’t vote on a ton of wacky offices (just some, like sheriff, which I think actually makes a great deal of sense since the sheriff runs the county jail), and we don’t have too many ballot questions, although we have some. We use paper ballots where you either fill in a bubble or connect a line, and I got annoyed yesterday because my polling place didn’t have the privacy sleeves for them that I’ve seen in the past. The weirdest thing I have voted for was judges in New York. Most of the time you had very little to go on except the party affiliations listed on the ballot (Nueva York allows multiple party endorsements, and you can vote for a candidate on any of the “lines” on which they appear, a system I really like). Or if you knew someone who was a lawyer, you could ask for their opinions, but it always struck me as a little odd in general.

    To tell you the truth, nothing feels like VOTING to me quite like the old New York voting machines. Google “old new york voting machines.” They were from the 40s, maybe, and they only just disappeared. They had little levers that made a satisfying click when you pulled them down, and then there was a giant lever that opened the curtain and submitted the votes, again with a satisfying chorus of noise. They were also truly private in a way that the little carrels I’ve seen in Massachusetts are not. It was like voting for Kennedy or something every time you voted. That, to me, is VOTING. This nonsense with paper and Sharpies is not VOTING.

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