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How We Used To Vote

kdawson posted more than 5 years ago | from the viva-voce dept.

Government 517

Mr. Slippery writes "Think hanging chads, illegal purges of the voter rolls, and insecure voting machines are bad? The New Yorker looks back at how we used to vote back in the good old days: 'A man carrying a musket rushed at him. Another threw a brick, knocking him off his feet. George Kyle picked himself up and ran. He never did cast his vote. Nor did his brother, who died of his wounds. The Democratic candidate for Congress, William Harrison, lost to the American Party's Henry Winter Davis. Three months later, when the House of Representatives convened hearings into the election, whose result Harrison contested, Davis's victory was upheld on the ground that any "man of ordinary courage" could have made his way to the polls.' Now I feel like a wuss for complaining about the lack of a voter-verified paper trail." The article notes the American penchant for trying to fix voting problems with technology — starting just after the Revolution. This country didn't use secret ballots, an idea imported from Australia, until quite late in the 19th century.

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517 comments

not the worst (-1, Offtopic)

Brian Gordon (987471) | more than 5 years ago | (#25604813)

in before scarlet letter, salem witch trials, etc

Re:not the worst (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25605083)

You slavery and jim crow laws (apartheid).

witch trials and letters would be better. (3, Funny)

tjstork (137384) | more than 5 years ago | (#25605319)

You know, they really should bring back the scarlet letter and witch trials. I mean, if someone sitting next to you got a promotion that you didn't, you would be able to start the whispering campaign that your rival cut a deal with Satan.

Re:witch trials and letters would be better. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25605557)

But once everyone's wearing a letter, how would we ever manage to shame everyone into obeying the will of the clergy?!

Congress (-1, Troll)

baffled (1034554) | more than 5 years ago | (#25604835)

If only Congress voted with secret ballots, too..

Re:Congress (4, Insightful)

Neoprofin (871029) | more than 5 years ago | (#25604851)

Wait, what?

Last time I checked more accountability for elected officials is always better.

Re:Congress (3, Funny)

baffled (1034554) | more than 5 years ago | (#25604917)

There'd be no incentive to bribing a Congressman..

..except to make corrupt proposals, which no one would have incentive to vote for.

Re:Congress (3, Insightful)

amRadioHed (463061) | more than 5 years ago | (#25605091)

Then on what grounds would you be able to judge if your congressperson should be reelected or not?

Regardless of any possible benefits this is a terrible, terrible idea. A legitimate public financing system would be more of a step in the right direction.

Re:Congress (1, Redundant)

baffled (1034554) | more than 5 years ago | (#25605109)

One could judge them on their speeches before Congress and on their proposed legislation - particularly if it was adopted by a fully anonymous vote.

This week it is YOUR turn to vote "no". (4, Funny)

khasim (1285) | more than 5 years ago | (#25605155)

So the various Congress Critters would all agree to vote "yes" for pay raises ... except for one who would vote "no".

Then, while campaigning, they can ALL claim to have voted against it.

And so on with every important issue.

Re:This week it is YOUR turn to vote "no". (1)

baffled (1034554) | more than 5 years ago | (#25605213)

Yes, it seems pay raises or other issues directly affecting Congress as a whole is a problem. Only the sponsor of that bill would feel the heat.

However, without any incentive for bribery in Congress, it's likely those in office would be less likely to vote themselves a pay raise. That is, the greedy types would have a different job.

Re:Congress (5, Interesting)

thetoadwarrior (1268702) | more than 5 years ago | (#25605245)

Well to be fair the UK's House of Lords is an unelected body that holds no accountability to anyone and they've looked out for the "average Joe" way more than the elected and accountable house of commons.

You'd be surprised how honest people can be when their job doesn't rely on what the average dimwit thinks.

Re:Congress (5, Insightful)

rjmx (233228) | more than 5 years ago | (#25605273)

You'd be surprised how honest people can be when their job doesn't rely on what the average dimwit thinks.

... which is an excellent argument against electing judges.

Re:Congress (4, Insightful)

thetoadwarrior (1268702) | more than 5 years ago | (#25605511)

You'd be surprised how honest people can be when their job doesn't rely on what the average dimwit thinks.

... which is an excellent argument against electing judges.

True.

Having 3 equal groups within a government and one that isn't accountable to the uneducated masses works best. It keeps thing balanced.

Re:Congress (2, Insightful)

DigiShaman (671371) | more than 5 years ago | (#25605589)

... which is an excellent argument against electing judges

You have it all wrong.

All judges get elected or put into their positions through some political process be it vocal or non-vocal. Ascension to such a job still will pass through other human beings with opinions of their own. It's an undeniable fact of life.

The correct question you should be asking is this. "How and by whom should judges be put into power?

Re:Congress (1)

jonadab (583620) | more than 5 years ago | (#25605355)

> Well to be fair the UK's House of Lords is an unelected body that holds no accountability to anyone
> and they've looked out for the "average Joe" way more than the elected and accountable house of commons.

Only in recent years, since most of the real power was vested in the House of Commons. It's not accountability that corrupts, but power. (And no, I don't have a solution. Well, I do, but it's worse than the problem.)

Re:Congress (2, Interesting)

thetoadwarrior (1268702) | more than 5 years ago | (#25605495)

True having zero accountability and only unelectable people would probably lead to a dictatorship which would likely lead to something that's not favourable to most but like anything it's a case of not going to either extreme.

The UK has a situation where it sort of has both extremes and, imo, when you do that the unaccountable ones will always win out in the end because the Lords are human too and have the same needs as the rest of us. Having the threat looming over that they could lose that position probably helps but relying on people within power that are 100% accountable to the public through election would end up in some sort of pro Daily Mail government that bases its laws on Littlejohn, the immigrant, with anti immigrant rubbish rants and other laws based on rubbish the common masses read from the guy who sits comfortably in Florida.

It's unfortunate but most people aren't capable of voting in their best interests. In an ideal world Reagan's trickle-down economics were correct if you'd rework them to make them less extreme. It's a fine balance that needs constant adjustment to ensure no one gets too much power.

That's where the problem lies. To get things right requires constant thought and evaluation. People don't want that. They want to press a button and then it's sorted but that won't happen ever. Constant fluctuation to keep people on their toes and thinking is uncool and will never win. The house of common / house of lords setup, as it's currently working, is probably the best people will get.

Re:Congress (1)

Golddess (1361003) | more than 5 years ago | (#25605439)

Just because Company X can't be sure that Congress Critter Y didn't vote for Proposal Z, doesn't mean they won't still try and bribe them.

Re:Congress (1)

Zontar The Mindless (9002) | more than 5 years ago | (#25604869)

You mean so they can be held accountable even *less* than they're getting away with already?

Or did I miss some <sarcasm> tags in your post?

Re:Congress (0)

Idiomatick (976696) | more than 5 years ago | (#25604895)

the pro side would say that its hard to buy the house if they are secret... exact reason we have secret voting...

Re:Congress (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25605037)

What are you smoking!!!

If they could do this in secret then that allows them to be bought out more and nobody ever knows!!!

Last i heard they were voting for ME, not them so i better get to see how they vote.

Re:Congress (1)

mewshi_nya (1394329) | more than 5 years ago | (#25605491)

Actually, it *would* make it harder. "We can't be sure he'll *actually* vote our way... why bother..."

Re:Congress (1)

isorox (205688) | more than 5 years ago | (#25604995)

You mean so they can be held accountable even *less* than they're getting away with already?

Or did I miss some <sarcasm> tags in your post?

How can big business buy votes if they don't know who voted for what?

Re:Congress (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25605229)

The same way they buy them now: they wine and dine the pol, and make them think that X Corp are swell guys. Just like managers choosing IT products over a golf game.

Give the politicians a little credit. Most of them aren't corrupt, just ignorant as bricks.

Voting the Open-Source Way (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25604855)

Vote early and often! :)

Re:Voting the Open-Source Way (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25604987)

The Chicago (and lately, the Ohio) way! Until we get a handle on voter fraud, we'll never have free and fair elections. What's so wrong with voter ID?

Re:Voting the Open-Source Way (5, Insightful)

EGSonikku (519478) | more than 5 years ago | (#25605487)

Nothing, as long as the state pays for the ID, and provides transportation to get the ID. Otherwise "Voter ID" essentially becomes "Poll Tax" and you have people with little or no income unable to vote because they can't afford an ID or the local DMV is two cities over.

I voted in this manner... (2, Troll)

vil3nr0b (930195) | more than 5 years ago | (#25604857)

Granted this was only way back in 2000, but I lived in St. Clair County, IL. It was a small township called French Village. At 8am, the mayor knocked on my door and informed my wife and I it was time to vote. We marched down to the fire station with him and twenty other poor people. They passed out leaflets stating which democrats we should vote for and why. There were no republicans running in our little township, so good luck dissenting. They also explained how important it was to vote democrat and how we should not consider ourselves welcome in the community if we failed to vote. We cast our votes and all went well. However, you had to fill your ballot in at a table with everyone else who could fit in the room at the time and the mayor literally acted as a monitor!!!

Re:I voted in this manner... (5, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25605101)

This doesn't make any sense. No one thought to call the state police, FBI or the media?

More importantly, these statements don't add up:

There were no republicans running in our little township

They also explained how important it was to vote democrat

If no republicans are running, then why go to all the effort?

Something smells in your story.

Re:I voted in this manner... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25605171)

This doesn't make any sense. No one thought to call the state police, FBI or the media?

More importantly, these statements don't add up:

There were no republicans running in our little township

They also explained how important it was to vote democrat

If no republicans are running, then why go to all the effort?

Something smells in your story.

Because there were still Republicans running for Congressional seats and the Presidency, as well as state seats?

Re:I voted in this manner... (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25605129)

That is absurd!

You should have shit your undies and flung the poo at the mayor's fuckface head until he pickin' corn kernels out of his nostrils. The nerve of some motherfuckin' mayors like Marion Barry [wikimedia.org] and Kwame Kilpatrick [wordpress.com] . Git off my astroturf, ya god damn niggas!

Re:I voted in this manner... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25605447)

Are secret ballots a legal requirement?

My impression has always been that voting was (except for in the case of discrimination) purely a state matter since your vote doesn't actually count--it's the state's vote who counts.

That's what we forget in America. Your vote is just a hint to the state representatives of how you want *THEM* to vote.

So if a state wanted to carry out its election by a counting of raised hands in assembly halls they could.

From what I understand in the story this sounds like a legal albiet questionably ethical means of carrying out an election.

Re:I voted in this manner... (1)

Kid Zero (4866) | more than 5 years ago | (#25605479)

From what a quick google search pulls up of the area, I'm not stunned.

Re:I voted in this manner... (1)

bigbigbison (104532) | more than 5 years ago | (#25605561)

The last presidential election I voted in back in the town I grew up in there were 9 positions on the ballot where people were running unopposed. No one was looking over my shoulder or told me who to vote for but if people are running unopposed it doesn't make for much of an election.

no excuses (5, Interesting)

Digitus1337 (671442) | more than 5 years ago | (#25604921)

Think hanging chads, illegal purges of the voter rolls, and insecure voting machines are bad?

Yes.

Re:no excuses (1)

The Redster! (874352) | more than 5 years ago | (#25605359)

In Soviet America, vote for Gore and Chad hangs you!

Re:no excuses (1, Interesting)

kitsunewarlock (971818) | more than 5 years ago | (#25605549)

Exactly. A worse evil does not justify evil. Hitler doesn't justify Manson.

Looks Like The "Good Old Days" (3, Informative)

jmichaelg (148257) | more than 5 years ago | (#25604939)

If card check legislation [latimes.com] gets signed into law by the next administration, we'll see a return of the "good old days."

Voter registration (4, Insightful)

photonic (584757) | more than 5 years ago | (#25604989)

Some American please explain me: why do you have voter registration at all? In my country (Netherlands), everyone above 18 is registered by default. I assume this is similar in most of Western Europe. The only caveat is that you have to be registered with your municipality, which you have to do anyhow for various different reasons (municipal tax, getting passports/ID/driving licence ...). A few weeks before an election, you simply get your 'voting ticket' in the mail. You typically take this to a neighborhood school to cast your vote, usually electronically.

Making everyone eligible to vote by default would save a lot of those voter-fraud claims and a lot of effort by the campaigns to get the people registered.

Re:Voter registration (4, Informative)

s.bots (1099921) | more than 5 years ago | (#25605017)

It's pretty much the same in Canada. After I turned eighteen I just got voting cards in the mail for Federal, Provincial, and Municipal elections. Where I vote isn't electronic, I'm not sure if there are any plans to move that way.

Re:Voter registration (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25605189)

It's pretty much the same in Canada. After I turned eighteen I just got voting cards in the mail for Federal, Provincial, and Municipal elections.

You must register to vote in Canada. But, many years ago, they made it very easy: there is a tick-off box on your federal income tax form to register to vote. The federal elections agency also shares information with provincial elections agencies, who get updates from medicare cards & driver's licenses changes.

More importantly, since being a convicted murderer doesn't deprive you of your vote, you don't get the wholesale purges that occur in the USA. These purges are prone to error and manipulation.

There are only a few reasons to deny a voter in Canada:

1. They aren't a Canadian citizen.
2. They haven't reached the voting age.
3. They don't live where they are trying to vote.

Re:Voter registration (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25605191)

As a fellow Canadian, I hope things don't move that way. Our 'mark the X' pencil-and-paper system seems to work just fine, even with recounts. I never understood the urge to have electronic voting, all it says to me is a chance to eliminate paper trails and to change the records without any evidence.

Re:Voter registration (4, Informative)

93 Escort Wagon (326346) | more than 5 years ago | (#25605055)

Some American please explain me: why do you have voter registration at all? In my country (Netherlands), everyone above 18 is registered by default. I assume this is similar in most of Western Europe. The only caveat is that you have to be registered with your municipality, which you have to do anyhow for various different reasons (municipal tax, getting passports/ID/driving licence ...). A few weeks before an election, you simply get your 'voting ticket' in the mail. You typically take this to a neighborhood school to cast your vote, usually electronically.

Making everyone eligible to vote by default would save a lot of those voter-fraud claims and a lot of effort by the campaigns to get the people registered.

Bottom line - we have to register to vote because only U.S. citizens (without a felony criminal conviction) are allowed to vote. It's a different mind-set in America. People would rebel if they had to "register with their municipality" for no compelling reason, even after several years of Homeland Security.

Registering to vote is a snap, though. When my daughter turned 18, she went to the local county auditor's website and filled in a form that basicaly just asked for her name and street address. A few days later she got her voter registration card.

So the difference between us and you appears to mainly be when we register - you DO have to register, but you do it much earlier and for a broader purpose.

Not exactly true (4, Informative)

codepunk (167897) | more than 5 years ago | (#25605079)

The states actually determine who is a eligible voter. Some states deny voting privs to convicted felons, some can vote reguardless even in prison and others can vote if there imposed sentence has been served. Personally I think once a mans
sentence has been served he should be eligible to vote else it imposes (taxation without representation) on the individual.

A great many states have poll day registration you walk in with a utility bill, drivers license or something of that sort and
you can register to vote right then and there.

Re:Not exactly true (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25605175)

Personally I don't think it makes sense to deny anyone their voting rights for any reasons.

Honestly, I don't feel it's fair to make anyone subject to the decisions of a legal system based on the voting system, if they can't affect that process.

It does make sense to not allow infants to vote (because the parents would likely misuse that) but with that exception anyone who can be punished under a countries laws should have a right to vote.

Re:Not exactly true (1)

MindlessAutomata (1282944) | more than 5 years ago | (#25605523)

Don't forget, who knows if they are even in prison for a good reason?

Re:Not exactly true (5, Insightful)

forsey (1136633) | more than 5 years ago | (#25605631)

This is a great point! If you were thrown in jail because you broke a that you morally disagree with, shouldn't you be able to vote against those who brought the law in? Allowing felons to vote seems like a safe guard against corruption to me. It seems like it wouldn't be too hard to make a law to turn a group of people who you didn't want to vote into felons so they couldn't. Make sleeping on a park bench a felony if you want to stop homeless people from voting, for example.

Re:Not exactly true (5, Insightful)

TempySmurf (728545) | more than 5 years ago | (#25605391)

Besides the simple moral objections to making someone a half citizen, we can just do the math and see why this is a bad idea. Around 7 million in prison, Kerry lost by 3 million and Gore from even less. Which doesn't include those who got out of prison but can't vote. Simply make laws that target certain demographics and you've got yourself an election. Whether or not this has been done, it's an obvious flaw in the system.

Re:Voter registration (4, Interesting)

photonic (584757) | more than 5 years ago | (#25605103)

But don't tell me that you are not already in 10 different databases from the moment you are born. I assume you guys also have to register for a birth certificate, you need to pay taxes at some point so you have a social security number, etc. I really don't see the point.

Re:Voter registration (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25605277)

The act creating social security specifically stated that the SSN would not become a form of identification. To preserve this illusion, (see the uproar over "REAL ID") we have to register for things in an inefficient manner. I don't know about other states, but mine has registration along with driver's license renewals.

It was not always so (1)

symbolset (646467) | more than 5 years ago | (#25605289)

But don't tell me that you are not already in 10 different databases from the moment you are born.

The database is a relatively recent innovation. Its use in government for the purpose of tracking citizens even more recent. A lot of citizens feel that a government that tracks the location of each person from birth to death is inviting abuses of government. That notwithstanding, that's what we have today, and the tracking is getting ever more thorough. In some places they install tracking devices in every auto, presumably to "more fairly" assess road taxes. The emergency services telephone operators have access to a cellular phone's GPS equipment to precisely locate a caller, and phones without this equipment are generally not available. More and more public cameras observe the comings and goings of citizens about their daily chores.

A tyrant with this much information would not find it challenging to silence dissent, discreetly.

Re:It was not always so (1)

photonic (584757) | more than 5 years ago | (#25605357)

Let them call the FBI/CIA, I would be surprised if they didn't already have the technology to connect every available database 20 years ago. To think that you can stay anonymous from the government is an illusion. Which of course makes it all the more important to have proper privacy laws and check-guards. Let them search around all they want, but not without a court order or (in case of national intelligence) a high official signing off.

Re:Voter registration (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25605209)

So the difference between us and you appears to mainly be when we register - you DO have to register,

In Norway, you enter this register (folkeregistret) by default at birth and stay in it until you die. If you move, you need to update the address in order to be able to receive any official mail or mail from the bank.

Re:Voter registration (1)

elgatozorbas (783538) | more than 5 years ago | (#25605349)

People would rebel if they had to "register with their municipality" for no compelling reason, even after several years of Homeland Security.

So in the US one can just "arrive" somewhere, move in a random house and everything is ok for the Government? They don't need to know where to send your tax letter or anything? Strange.

Re:Voter registration (2, Interesting)

Wyatt Earp (1029) | more than 5 years ago | (#25605365)

From my experience, as an adult having lived in South Dakota, Oregon and Colorado, its fine to just move around the country.

It is your responsibility to have your mail forwarded to your new address, the Government doesn't know where you are unless you tell them and for general things (mail/taxes/bills) there is no checking up on if your address is accurate.

Re:Voter registration (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25605455)

So in the US one can just "arrive" somewhere, move in a random house and everything is ok for the Government? They don't need to know where to send your tax letter or anything? Strange.

Strange? Really? I'd think this is how it should be. For as much as we whine about how the U.S. is turning into a totalitarian state we really do have an incredible amount of freedom. You're still free to come and go and live and work where you please. You're not even legally obligated to get government ID, though it certainly makes life more difficult. But if you don't drive you could easily get by with just a passport, no state ID needed. As with everything the more you want-- driving rights, property ownership, etc-- the more you have to go "on the grid."

As far as a "tax letter", It's your responsibility to file your taxes, the IRS doesn't send you notices (though of course your employer is telling them what you were paid, so it's not that difficult to track you down.)

I'm not saying the U.S. is perfect, but you're not making a case for Europe being much better.

Re:Voter registration (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25605073)

Getting ID is done through the state, as is paying municipal income tax. Your municipality has no way to even know you exist unless you're paying property taxes. Not to mention the complication of voting precincts crossing town/county lines...

Fortunately in most states you can register to vote while you get your ID/drivers-license.

Re:Voter registration (4, Informative)

rnelsonee (98732) | more than 5 years ago | (#25605077)

I feel it's largely due to the nature that all Americans are subject to two major governments at all times - state and federal. Our system is set up so that states control voting on election day, and like most other issues (education, driving, licensing) there is little communication between the states. So if you move from one state to another, you need to tell you new state that you're there and you want to vote.

Voter registration really is more about your state knowing where you are so you can vote for the right people. Certainly, if the federal government handled it, it would be automatic, but we just don't have the federal government in charge of elections (which is fine, we are, at least in theory, more about a collection of states rather than citizens of one large federal government).

Re:Voter registration (2, Informative)

unixan (800014) | more than 5 years ago | (#25605131)

Some American please explain me: why do you have voter registration at all?

The U.S. does not have any (official) national citizen database (despite attempts to change that), and the various U.S. states do not have them either. As a result, to be able to vote, voter registration is required.

When registering, a citizen typically has to prove their eligibility to vote (which varies by state law), the most popular method being proof of citizenship and the location of your residence.

Of course, don't take my word for it. There's a more thorough discussion of the issue and how it is implemented in various countries around the world (with references) on Wikipedia [wikipedia.org] .

Re:Voter registration (2, Informative)

chill (34294) | more than 5 years ago | (#25605145)

The U.S. does not have any (official) national citizen database (despite attempts to change that), and the various U.S. states do not have them either. As a result, to be able to vote, voter registration is required.

Two words. Selective Service.

Re:Voter registration (3, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25605199)

Except only males have to register for the draft.

Re:Voter registration (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25605203)

The U.S. does not have any (official) national citizen database (despite attempts to change that), and the various U.S. states do not have them either. As a result, to be able to vote, voter registration is required.

Two words. Selective Service.

Unless you are a woman, then you don't have to register for selective service. So, the government only has half of the population over 18 in that database.

Re:Voter registration (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25605295)

Unless you are a woman, then you don't have to register for selective service. So, the government only has half of the population over 18 in that database.

Yes, an excellent reason to use it! Women should be too busy cooking for their men and raising children to bother their pretty little heads with subjects beyond their God-given abilities like politics.

Re:Voter registration (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25605303)

Two words. Selective Service.

The selective service is male-only.

Re:Voter registration (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25605331)

Until the US gets itself into a few more stupid wars, yes.

Re:Voter registration (1)

Wyatt Earp (1029) | more than 5 years ago | (#25605377)

Selective Service is not universal as it only applies to one gender.

Re:Voter registration (1)

chill (34294) | more than 5 years ago | (#25605431)

That could easily be fixed in the name of "equality". As is, it is a good start -- to a bad end.

Re:Voter registration (1)

blueg3 (192743) | more than 5 years ago | (#25605237)

Who is in charge of these other registrations and their standards for proving things like where you actually live differ a lot.

You mention you have to be registered with your municipality. In my municipality in the US, you do not. You don't have to have any other ID either, though I happen to have a passport and driver's license. Frequently when filling out forms for things like driver's licenses that have a higher standard of proof than a voter registration, you can at the same time register to vote with minimal additional paperwork (likewise for draft registration).

Re:Voter registration (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25605345)

Everyone above 18 is registered by default. I assume this is similar in most of Western Europe.

Not everywhere in Western Europe though, here in Belgium everybody over 18 is required to vote. I get a letter telling me where I need to go vote and if I don't show up I can get fined 500 euros or theoretically can even get sent to jail.
I would prefer the American system over ours, even if I would go vote anyway.

Re:Voter registration (1)

MindlessAutomata (1282944) | more than 5 years ago | (#25605537)

As an American, I would throw a fit I was required to vote. I suspect those laws are passed to get people that think it will benefit them elected again.

Obama vs. McCain... I do NOT want to justify either of their campaigns and I do not want to vote for them (or any of the ridiculous third party candidates).

Oh, its us evil Republicans! (2, Funny)

tjstork (137384) | more than 5 years ago | (#25605379)

Republicans in the USA tend to believe that not everyone should be allowed to vote. Specifically, we would ultimately prefer that only people who own property should be allowed to vote in order to prevent the socialist idea of masses voting themselves wealth transfers from upper classes. Therefor, voter registration would be a separate process as it was a different set of people.

However, we lost this debate utterly to the Democrats, and so, more or less, have this idea that everyone should be allowed to vote, but with the vestiges of a separate process until such time that we Republicans can really get back into power and repeal that god-awful Constitutional amendment.

Re:Voter registration (5, Informative)

jonadab (583620) | more than 5 years ago | (#25605641)

> Some American please explain me: why do you have voter registration at all?

Long story short? Because we let people vote who aren't registered for anything else. There are a lot of details, some of which I discuss below, but it all boils down to that: we let people vote who aren't registered for anything else.

> In my country (Netherlands), everyone above 18 is registered by default.

I don't know how it is in the Netherlands, but that system would be impractical here because the people here are free to move around (and often do, across voting district lines, state lines, you name it, without a second thought) without informing anyone. There's no central registry of all citizens in the first place, and there's *certainly* no central registry of where everyone lives. Other than the voter registration, there isn't any other registry that could be used for determining where people can vote and whether they've already voted (possibly in a different polling location) and so forth. The thing most people immediately think of to use instead is the Bureau of Motor Vehicles database of licensed drivers, but that would exclude substantial categories of people on unconstitutional grounds.

Note that it does matter very much which voting district people vote in, not just for determining whether someone has already voted in another polling location, but also because you vote on different stuff. For example, school taxes are voted on by the residents of each school district (and while I suspect you don't here anything much about it overseas because of the inherently local nature of it, people at the local level are often more concerned with the outcome of these local elections than with the state and national ones). US Representatives represent not just the people of a specific state but more particularly the people of a specific congressional district within a state, so for voting purposes it matters which district you're in. And so forth.

Among other things, the Board of Elections has to know *where* to expect you to come and vote, so they can have your name on the list for that location. (Having a list of who is going to come and vote, and checking them off, is the only realistic way to enforce the limit of one vote per person, i.e., to prevent ballot-stuffing.) So you have to let them know where you live ahead of time, so they can put you on the list for your precinct. If you move, you're still registered, but you have to update your registration with the new address if you want to vote in the new polling location (and, thus, on the local issues in your new place of residence).

> The only caveat is that you have to be registered with your municipality, which you have to do
> anyhow for various different reasons (municipal tax, getting passports/ID/driving licence ...).

So you can't vote if you don't live in a municipality? That wouldn't go over so well here. Also, while it varies from one municipality to another, most municipal taxes in the US are levied on either income or property ownership (land, specifically), so no, not everyone who lives in a city, town, or village has to register for tax purposes, or any other reason for that matter. There's a census every ten years, but while participation is encouraged (and there's really no downside), it's not actually mandatory, and I think the privacy nuts (ironically, including a lot of the sort of people who read slashdot) would go bonkers and start filing lawsuits if the government tried to make the census mandatory or give it any legal force.

As for the passports, most Americans don't have them. (Before you react too strongly to that, bear in mind that from here I can travel for two thousand miles in any direction, or three thousand miles to the west, without a passport. This is mostly a very good thing, though it would be nice if it were somewhat easier to find people who speak a foreign language fluently.)

As noted above, the driver's license is something whole categories of people don't have (the Amish, the blind, Native Americans living on the reservations, many married people from the older generation who never saw the point in having multiple cars and multiple drivers per family, ...), and it would be unconstitutional to discriminate against them.

So that's why we have voter registration.

Tch tch (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25605019)

Slashdot doesn't seem to have adjusted for Daylight Savings. Tch tch.

We have the reliable scan cards (1)

codepunk (167897) | more than 5 years ago | (#25605033)

Fill a circle in run it through a scanner, nothing could be more simple and foolproof. I am
really unsure why any voting district would want to use anything other than the scan card system.

Re:We have the reliable scan cards (1)

AuMatar (183847) | more than 5 years ago | (#25605225)

Did you fill in the circle correctly? Does it work with this type of ink? Is the machine calibrated correctly and did it feed the paper correctly so the circle is where the machine is looking?

Don't get me wrong, I love scan cards- fast count and a paper trail for the double check. But it can still fail and has a greater than 0 failure rate even when working. It still needs to be hand checked.

Re:We have the reliable scan cards (1)

MoonBuggy (611105) | more than 5 years ago | (#25605565)

I'd say an optically scannable print-out from the electronic voting machines would be the solution to a whole lot of problems on both sides.

Touch the screen, the machine records your vote in its memory and prints out a clear form (both human and machine readable) stating how you voted. This is then placed in a box just like any normal paper ballot. The paper forms are optically scanned, and if that tally disagrees with the machine's internal database then a hand recount is automatically undertaken.

It's fast, there are far fewer potential problems with incorrectly filled forms, there's a paper trail, there's on-the-spot evidence that the machine did indeed record your vote correctly and the votes are all counted twice by design.

It's an idea that's been floating around my head for a while, and it seems workable - anyone have any ideas on where it could fall down?

Re:We have the reliable scan cards (1)

blueg3 (192743) | more than 5 years ago | (#25605255)

You obviously haven't ever given a Scantron test. You might guess, incorrectly, that everyone could fill out a bubble sheet properly, but no. Worse, the scanner can't always score properly-filled-out sheets correctly all the time (and it usually fails on incorrectly-filled-out sheets).

Re:We have the reliable scan cards (2, Interesting)

Morten Hustveit (722349) | more than 5 years ago | (#25605281)

Fill a circle in run it through a scanner, nothing could be more simple and foolproof.

Acutally, the Norwegian system is even more foolproof. A voting venue consist of a single box and multiple booths. Inside the voting booth, you find several stacks of paper, one for each voting alternative. You pick up a pice of paper from the correct stack, fold it, walk outside, and hand it to the person standing next to the box. He ensures that you are only casting a single vote, and drops it into the box for you.

Re:We have the reliable scan cards (1)

Chep (25806) | more than 5 years ago | (#25605547)

+ France. Very similar. You take one ballot paper from each of the stacks, plus you are handed out one single envelope. Go into the booth, put your single ballot paper into the envelope, discard the rest. Then go to the ballot box; they then check your ID again, while the envelope is sitting on the closed input slit. When all officiers agree you are who you say, registered and didn't already vote, the ballot box officier pushes a lever and your envelope falls.

Whichever envelope contains more than one ballot paper, or altered paper, or anything else gets discared (I wish those incidents were counted and part of the official record). Not perfect, but pretty good still. Counts are usually wrapped up 3 hours after ballot close time. WTF one needs to "fix" that non-broken system with electronics?

Competition (5, Funny)

glaeven (845193) | more than 5 years ago | (#25605051)

A man carrying a musket rushed at him. Another threw a brick, knocking him off his feet. George Kyle picked himself up and ran. He never did cast his vote. Nor did his brother, who died of his wounds.

I'd like to see Karl Rove top that.

Re:Competition (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25605089)

shit - i just blew my mod points!

Re:Competition (1)

achurch (201270) | more than 5 years ago | (#25605543)

A man carrying a musket rushed at him. Another threw a brick, knocking him off his feet. George Kyle picked himself up and ran. He never did cast his vote. Nor did his brother, who died of his wounds.

I'd like to see Karl Rove top that.

Please, don't give him ideas . . .

Why do you feel like a wuss? (1)

Krishnoid (984597) | more than 5 years ago | (#25605075)

Now I feel like a wuss for complaining about the lack of a voter-verified paper trail.

In the face of something between malfunctioning and fraudulent electronic machines, aren't you a wuss if you accept the lack of such a trail? I think that complaining/protesting something like that is a sign of conviction, strength, and frankly just giving a crap about something beyond yourself that you stand for.

We sort of accept the rule of law in this country (bear with me), so complaining in its various forms -- soap, ballot, jury ... let's stop short of ammo -- is the way you assert your constitutional rights. While it isn't storming the gates, isn't it a modern counterpart?

Re:Why do you feel like a wuss? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25605221)

Amen! :D

We need to stand up for stuff, like we used to...
America, GET OFF YOUR FUCKING ASSES!!!

In for a penny, out for a pound. (1)

Ostracus (1354233) | more than 5 years ago | (#25605143)

"This country didn't use secret ballots, an idea imported from Australia, until quite late in the 19th century. "

Thanks Australia! We'll return the favour.

Re:In for a penny, out for a pound. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25605627)

No wurries Mate! Ermmm.. BTW Thanks for the Brady Bunch :(

2008 presidenta election (-1, Flamebait)

FudRucker (866063) | more than 5 years ago | (#25605223)

what i wonder is, if obama loses will the black people riot? and if obama wins will the black people riot? (either way it goes i wonder if the black people will riot)

Re:2008 presidenta election (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25605413)

i'm more worried about stupid racist white people rioting when he's elected. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N9Ejf5UCn0Y [youtube.com]

Re:2008 presidenta election (1)

FudRucker (866063) | more than 5 years ago | (#25605465)

that is possible, there are plenty of those too.

Articles like this reinforce why I read /. (1)

Faizdog (243703) | more than 5 years ago | (#25605239)

This was a really fascinating article.

Interesting articles like this, that I may not find on my own (Don't read the New Yorker) really exemplify why I love slashdot.

That was a great use of my day to read that, thanks /.

Utterly irrelevant. (1)

fishtorte (1117491) | more than 5 years ago | (#25605243)

Not everyone can kick the shit out of fascists trying to steal their vote. Nor are they necessarily aware that it's happening.

Punchscan (2, Interesting)

pilsner.urquell (734632) | more than 5 years ago | (#25605265)

Now I feel like a wuss for complaining about the lack of a voter-verified paper trail.

There are about four groups of people working to rectify this problem. The one I've been following is Punchscan [punchscan.org] which looks like they have everything covered except fraudulent registration. Slashdot covered Punchscan here [slashdot.org] .

Founding fathers (4, Insightful)

philspear (1142299) | more than 5 years ago | (#25605305)

The article makes the interesting point that our founding forefathers considered secret balloting cowardly. Clearly they did not anticipate violence as a tactic to tamper with elections. Our founding forefathers thought it was important to include an amendment stating that you could not be forced to quarter troops against your will in times of peace, clearly not anticipating that it would not really be an issue today. Some of our founding forefathers thought that slavery was alright. Not all of our founding forefathers thought separation of church and state as we take it today was a good idea.

It always strikes me as strange that people take the constitution as more than just a set of generally good ideas and precedents written by talented individuals. People act like because our founding forefathers said X, it was handed down by God himself.

I usually run up against this when the constitution seems to disagree with my liberal leanings (I'm sure someone will want to get into a pointless discussion of the second amendment, but we've all been down that road), but it's not limited to just that, and I'm sure it runs both ways.

More specific to elections though, isn't it about time we abolished the electoral college and go right to a popular vote? There is clearly no legitimate reason for it to still be around. Electors rarely switch their votes, and, as the article points out, the founders saying it's a good idea does not make it so.

Re:Founding fathers (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25605529)

The article makes the interesting point that our founding forefathers considered secret balloting cowardly. Clearly they did not anticipate violence as a tactic to tamper with elections.

Or... They did anticipate it but expected it to work out both ways. On some areas one side uses such tactics, on others the other side. Technically it should still work out the way that the majority wins. Unless other side is less willing to use such tactics but then they might just not support their side enough, they might be too cowardly, etc... Remember that pacifism wasn't common in the time we are talking about. Maybe they were just assholes.

Not all of our founding forefathers thought separation of church and state as we take it today was a good idea.

Wait, what? Don't your bills state "In god we trust"? Is it not correct that religious organizations don't need to pay taxes like others? Is it not true that people can get married in certain churches but not in some? What you have is nowhere NEAR separation of church and state. Because that would be too marxist or something. (As you all should know, the "In god we trust" was added during the cold war to make separation to the communism)

It always strikes me as strange that people take the constitution as more than just a set of generally good ideas and precedents written by talented individuals. People act like because our founding forefathers said X, it was handed down by God himself.

I know. When talking to americans about politics, founding fathers seem to be held as godlike figures. One person says "That works as the founding fathers intended..." and other responds "Yes, but they specifically warned against this other thing that is happening"... WHAT DOES IT MATTER WHAT THEY THOUGHT? It only matters if it works well or not.

Re:Founding fathers (1)

MindlessAutomata (1282944) | more than 5 years ago | (#25605575)

I agree with you on the fact that people treat what the founding father's said as gospel too much, however, the constitution can be amended AND, well, do you really want the ultimate law of the land to be whatever the government says it is at the time? It's bad enough as it right now with the current flagrant abuses.

I suspect it's that pesky 2nd amendment you want to get rid of the most.

aus (0, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25605383)

In Australia, we have the AEC (Australian Electoral Comission)
They run both state and federal elections.
As far as I or anyone else can tell, they are efficient and accurate.

In one day, 16million votes are cast and counted throughout the country with results known before bed time that same night.
How is it that our little country can manage this while there are lines around the block in the USA days before the election?

There's nothing that the Americans do that appears to be efficient or accurate.
I dont think in the entire history of Australian voting that anyone has questioned the validity of a vote.
There have been a few recounts, but they were shown to be surprisingly accurate the first time.

Time to sit up and look around at the world in which you live America. The world has far surpassed your technical and proceedural level. As harsh a blow as that might be to the collective ego over there, it's true.

This is part of what's costing your country so dearly in so many ways.

Somehow you're clinging to the superpower status, but just because our old uncle can still knock anyone out in a fight, doesnt mean the world doesnt laugh at his diminishing abilities.

Re:aus (1)

EGSonikku (519478) | more than 5 years ago | (#25605567)

The state I live in (California) has more people than your entire country, to say nothing of the other 49 states, so logistically it's more of a nightmare.

So you have to co-ordinate between local, state, and federal agencies on election day.

Obviously our system is far from perfect regarding recounts and what not, but it usually works out (ignoring 2001 anyway...)

Re:aus (1)

PenGun (794213) | more than 5 years ago | (#25605625)

Counting ballots by hand scales infinitely. Makes no difference at all how big the set is if it is counted by a scaling subset ... eh'.

  Now you are crazy people and stuff all kinds of crap on your ballots when voting for president but I think that is mainly because it allows more spin and confusion. Cynical bastard for sure, but then I've been here a long time.

Re:aus (1)

ceoyoyo (59147) | more than 5 years ago | (#25605649)

Yeah, that would suck if one person had to count all the votes. Actually, it would suck if one person had to count all the 10 million or so votes in my country too. Fortunately, the system is distributed, and so easily scalable. The same basic procedure is used for mayoral elections in my home town of 800 people and in federal elections.

Re:aus (1)

PenGun (794213) | more than 5 years ago | (#25605581)

Canada too. If you count em' by hand it's pretty well impossible to cheat. We too return our results the same day. Sometimes close ones will be recounted but apart from that it's all done in one day by hand.

  Works well but I suspect the American character is not happy with something that cannot be spun. Playing fair is regarded as pussy. You need to think that through as it does not produce the results you think it does.

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