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Thursday, October 28, 2004


The "actual" election

After the debacle of the 2000 election that finally exposed longstanding issues in the electoral process Congress was galvanized (more like shamed) into action. No one wanted a repeat on 2004. Sorry to see those dreams being crushed. But to Congress' credit in 2002 they did pass the Help America Vote Act of 2002. President Bush signed it into law.

If you visit the Department of Justice website it says the following:

"Under Section 401, the Attorney General has enforcement authority for the
uniform and nondiscriminatory election technology and administration
requirements that apply to States under Sections 301, 302, and 303."
For those interested in details, read through sections 301, 302 and 303. A cursory reading reveals that Congress basically preserved the myriad of polling systems across the country but made sure they met new requirements. One of the requirements DOES mention a written record for a recount situation. I think there is definitely some legal confusion about that and as can be expected it has been duly challenged in the courts against electronic voting machines. One thing that I find startling is that states have till January 1st, 2006 to implement this!

I know democracy is all about choice and America holds its federalism close to its heart but too many choices for 50 states are creating an electoral process that is undermining the most basic democratic exercise. I think it's time for a complete standardization of the electoral process across the country. India has successfully achieved that and I don't see why the United States would have any technical problem in doing so.

The outgoing Congress has been quite active on the Election Reform front. Many procedural laws have been passed but I still feel that states are still messing up federal elections. The fact that 58,000 absentee ballots get lost in Florida where the last election was decided by 537 votes is a major scandal. It should be a cause of outrage against the secretary of state's office who had 4 years to fix things even though they're blaming this one on the postal office, who reject that blame.

I guess it's going to take another close election, more cynicism in the political process to finally move people in the right direction. It's hard to talk of issues when a large percentage of people in this country believe that the next "elected" President is going to be illegitimate. Welcome to the world of political polarization where mistrust reigns and the only thing certain is the uncertain.


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