Monday, December 13, 2004


Voting is much more scientific these days. It used to be simple. When my father cast his vote for John F. Kennedy in 1960 it was because he was from a household of Democrats, and because he was under the influence of an anti-Nixon streak that wound itself through the ethnography of Jewish Philadelphia. There was no stovepipe of opinion poll calculations, no red and blue and swing states. My father may have known about Nixon’s sweaty lip, but not with the same ferocity with which we learned about George W. Bush’s scowl. Perhaps already in the adolescence of its obsolescence, it was the same Electoral College that elected presidents then as it is now. People were still essentially voting from the gut.

Keeping oneself informed is a full time exercise. Keeping oneself informed is not a passive experience. It is not simply gobbling up as much information as possible. There is an equal measure of deleting to be done. All media compete for our time and attention, and few folks find the time to do the research necessary to verify or debunk the "facts" presented to us. You come away with an impression, without necessarily understanding anything about reality.

The first election I remember was 1976, and even as a youngster I wanted to know where all of the votes went. I imagined enormous rooms where diligent and honest workers counted each ballot, marking down tallies and passing information up the food chain. I tried to imagine how many trash trucks it would take to haul away everything after the election was decided, the once important documents reduced to trash. Quite a contrast to the reality of ballot boxes floating in the San Francisco Bay in the early 21st Century.

What is most troubling is that the average citizen has no idea where their votes go. If permitted the chance to travel the path of a vote, from the moment it is cast to its final destination, the average person would likely become nauseous. Each state administers its own elections, each with its own laws and procedures, and each with its own collection of contractors, software and hardware, absentee voting system, and a partisan governor at the top. It’s not about the chad. It’s about democracy.

For more information, start here.


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