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October 23rd, 2008
12:20 PM ET

Let's skip the Election Day madness

Richard Morris
CNN Associate Producer

Voting is the cornerstone of our democracy, right? Then why is voting still so difficult?

Let's just start with the timing: the first Tuesday after the first Monday in November is arbitrary now. It started back when our economy was agrarian. The first week in November was good for farmers; they had finished harvesting their crops and winter's harsh weather hadn't hit. The vote was held on Tuesday because it took many farmers a day to get to the voting 'booths.' So rather than make them leave on the Sabbath, they left on Monday, cast their ballots on Tuesday and were back at work on Wednesday.

That made sense then, but why hasn't the system evolved as we have? Why do we still have such an arcane, bug-plagued voting system?

We pay our bills online. We place bets in the stock market online. The government lets you file your taxes online, but we still can't vote online.

It gets better. In Oregon, you can't even get in line to vote. (You have to mail in your ballots.) In one county in California this year, you could actually sit in line at a drive-through voting station.

With all of this technology, organization and trust in online commerce, why can't the government figure out how to make online voting safe, secure and transparent? We walked on the moon decades ago, but we're still messing around with faulty electronic voting machines, complicated paper ballots or–can you believe it–even chads?

With another crisis on Election Day expected in as many as 10 states, isn't it time move past our messy first-Tuesday-after-the-first-Monday-in-November ritual? Shouldn’t we be getting beyond these voting issues by now?


Filed under: 2008 Election • Raw Politics • Richard Morris
soundoff (25 Responses)
  1. Tom

    This is one of the most frustrating things that I too don't understand. We trust technology to drive our cars, fly our planes, run our economic sytstems, and to fly and land on the moon; however, some how we can't trust it to cast a vote. Don't get me wrong I completely understand the concept of having a "hard copy" of your vote for a backup. Why doesn't the government talk with Microsoft, Oracle, or Apple, to develop a very user friendly, touchscreen system (for our seniors that are not savy on the computer), and then when you are done, out pops a "receipt" of your votes, and you turn it in to the people at the voting site. Only one system for the entire country.

    October 23, 2008 at 4:26 pm |
  2. Koko Chanelle

    do you have a plan for keeping security with an online vote? or perhaps another option? seems to me, the in person voting system with the current security measures is the most reasonable system

    October 23, 2008 at 4:19 pm |
  3. Rich B - Knoxville

    Yes - The first Tuesday after the first Monday in November is abitrary, and what other date would not be – Oh, your's would not be - OK

    Now - Granted voting "on-line" seems like a great thing - However, I personally see two problems -

    1) If people can hack into the pentagon's computer what makes you think someone could't hack into, over or through any security device or firre wall in a on-line voting system??

    2) There are literally millions of people who do not have access to, do not know how to operate, or could care less about any internet system - Case in point - John McCain.

    To me, what is needed, for NATIONAL elections, is a nation wide standard voting system (or equipment) that would be simple. easy to use and almost fool-proof (been my experience whenever one thinks something is "fool proof", along comes a bigger fool) - Let the individual states states either combine with the "National" election mechanism, or do thier own thing (within the limits of the law of course) - Talk about a national priority -

    October 23, 2008 at 3:57 pm |
  4. Jennifer

    I'm old fashioned, I know. I know that life is probably different in areas of the country that are more populated than rural communities. But with that said. . .

    I like to wish that it would stay the same. To many people have to much going on in their lives to remember any dates. Why would you change the one that people do remember? I think it is so great to see people gathering at their voting places, wanting to make sure that their voices are heard. To see so many, willing to take time out of their busy schedule just to mark an "x" in a spot makes a person (okay, ME) feel that others actually do care about this country no matter who they are voting for behind that curtain. There is a reason, or so I believe, why there is no campaigning allowed so many feet from the polling place. So if a person is at home, watching television or listening to the radio, and on the computer to get ready to vote, the cursor is on the box and seconds before you click you hear, "He's hanging out with terrorists" you just might move the cursor up or down and change your mind. I like things to just stay the same. I'll drive to the local town hall, stand in line, talk to the judges about the turnout for the day, inform others on the phone (when done) that the line takes approx 2 minutes and who the judges are incase they have that container to return to them and haven't had a chance to yet. Or even hang out there for a little bit, to catch up on what some families have been upto if I haven't seen them for awhile. That's rural, however; I will admit that I have not a clue what actually happens in cities with the exception of what's being reported.

    October 23, 2008 at 3:51 pm |
  5. Mike from Canada

    Well put!

    October 23, 2008 at 3:47 pm |
  6. Molly B.

    Yes, I agree but............I am such a greenie with computer and
    internet............I'm afraid there are too many clever (??) people
    out there who would manipulate/miss-use my vote.

    October 23, 2008 at 2:56 pm |
  7. Annie Kate

    Given a way to safely vote on-line would be nice; but given the abilities of hackers to get into just about anything we would probably see problems we never thought of and we would have less confidence in our counts than we do today. Also, not everyone has a computer with on-line access nor do they want one. So how do those people vote?

    Annie Kate
    Birmingham AL

    October 23, 2008 at 2:41 pm |
  8. David in Wisconsin

    While in general I agree with your sense technological idealism, in the case of voting, I feel that getting out and voting with your neighbors on a particular day engenders enough sense of community and sense of patriotism that paying your bills on line simply will never have. Here in Wisconsin, our ballots are made of paper, and you use a pen to connect an arrow that points to the candidate of your choice. An electronic scanner records your vote and provides a sum at the end of the day. This is a system which is fast and verifiable since it leaves a paper trail that can be counted by hand.

    October 23, 2008 at 2:28 pm |
  9. GF, Los Angeles

    I agree! I loved being able to vote early on touchscreens but that was taken away due to accusations that the voting was inaccurate. Now I have to either arrive to work late to vote in the morning or leave early to vote in the evening before polls close. After reading the blog that there was a 2 hour wait with early voting in Atlanta, I have a feeling this will become an all day affair come voting day since early voting was not given as an option.

    October 23, 2008 at 2:25 pm |
  10. Baffled by it

    and why are we still using the electoral college and tolerating gerrymandering?

    October 23, 2008 at 2:03 pm |
  11. Bubba

    If I could vote online, I'd vote 100 times. Believe me. So would my friends.

    October 23, 2008 at 1:58 pm |
  12. Sharon Kitchen

    Sure we should. But with the people ("not"in charge),who have the job to fix the problem,on it goes,year after year. Paper ballotts worked fine.
    Poll workers and the folks put in charge used to count them fine.Then came the out sorceing and the machines to companies that either, aren't in America ,& ,or don't care, to down right decit. In order for "their" canidate to win....."they" would stoop to no ends. Well....how about the "they" being arrested and pay a heafty fine out of their "own" pockets .The system just might get fixed. In our state,which is one of the ones stated to have multiple problems.......with officals already,openly admitting there will have to be a recount,(that's just one problem),and this is only early voting. Guess what other states are looking at?????
    Folks wonder why in the past elections the turn out was so bad?????
    This year with HIGH turn out,there will be many pole watchers,recounts,long hours,before.....ANYONE knows the outcome.
    A VERY LOOOOOOOOOOOOOONG NIGHT..........
    In America.....the land of the free and brave.With equal rights/liberty and justice...........WHAT IN THE WORLD HAVE WE COME TO ??????

    October 23, 2008 at 1:52 pm |
  13. Elizabeth

    If we can make ATMs error-proof and traceable and user-friendly, why not voting booths?

    It's embarrassing that we're attempting to spread democracy throughout the world and we don't even truly have it ourselves.

    October 23, 2008 at 1:52 pm |
  14. Dave from Ohio

    There are two kinds of fools. One says, “This is old, therefore it is good.” The other says, “This is new, therefore it is better.”

    October 23, 2008 at 1:51 pm |
  15. Joanne, Syracuse, NY

    In New York State, we have used lever voting machines since the 50s. These machines are now considered so out of date that we have to use electronic machines...which are unreliable and complex. The transition from practical to obscurely high-tech is burdensome, most likely more likely to be hacked. This method is truly "lost in translation".

    October 23, 2008 at 1:50 pm |
  16. Jim

    You want to know why we don't use computers to vote?
    Simple- to err is Human to REALLY SCREW things up use a computer that can be hacked.Several People HATE COMPUTERS with a Passion- Those Computerized Phone messages? I knopw a Few people who's opinion is the Computer needs to be turned sideways & Shoved up the part of anatomy used to sit with.

    October 23, 2008 at 1:42 pm |
  17. Michelle

    You are so right my brother inquired about voting early in
    Virginia and learned you can not just go early to avoid long lines.
    Our state requires a good reason. So we have to wait until
    Nov 4.

    October 23, 2008 at 1:24 pm |
  18. Cindy

    There is no way that we can do safe online voting! It is a nice thought but not plausible. The government can't even get it right when we have to go to the booth so what makes anyone think they could get that right? There would be WAY more voter fraud that way! I'd rather stick to the standing in line way. Sometimes making things easier isn't always the best way.

    If you don't want to wait in line get an absentee ballot or go and vote early.

    Cindy...Ga.

    October 23, 2008 at 1:18 pm |
  19. Billy

    Thanks Richard. I had always wondered why that day was chosen. I guess the government is worried about a "Man of the Year" screw up.

    October 23, 2008 at 1:18 pm |
  20. Rick

    One word... SECURITY.
    There is no such thing as a hacker proof web site.
    All it takes is ONE breach and the entire election is meaningless.

    Physical ballots can be recounted over and over again. Forged or counterfeit ballots can be identified and disqualified.
    Electronic ballots (files) can be altered without leaving a single trace.

    Until you can "hacker proof" the process from end to end, it will not happen.

    Show me one online bill pay site that doesn't have it's fair share of security issues... you can't.
    Filing taxes online is just as risky, but again, an error here and there is not going to change the balance of power in the country.
    You have to look at what is at stake if an error or security breach occurs.
    Impact analysis shows that the above scenarios have an acceptable amount of risk for what you are trying to achieve.
    Are you willing to let that level of risk decide the next leader of our country?
    I think not.

    October 23, 2008 at 1:03 pm |
  21. Larry

    Yep, russian hackers would love for us to vote online. Does everybody have a computer?

    October 23, 2008 at 12:54 pm |
  22. Rebekah

    If i have to wait in line for 10 minutes or 10 hours, I will do that because it is my American right to vote. So, the system is a little flawed. Fine. I am dreaming about the moment on November 4th when i can punch the ballot in support of my favorite candidate in the whole world. I would wait days to vote for him. After all of the campaigning he has done, I can spare a few hours to vote and put him in office. Plus, I think it's cool that I'm voting in the same way my great-grandpa did. What is solution to fix this problem? Until you have one, I'm fine with my voting ways. Thank you, Rebekah.

    October 23, 2008 at 12:45 pm |
  23. Monika

    I often ask myself the question: "Why make something simple when you can make it complicated?" I guess the major problem with online voting and getting rid of the existing archaic system is that the election couldn't be "fixed". Apparently that's what the existing system was invented for.

    October 23, 2008 at 12:42 pm |
  24. grandma lorraine- washington state

    Voting has been made more convenient here in our state – now we can vote by mail-in ballots in places. All states should now try to make it more convenient. Predictions of a record turnout this year are very encouraging! VOTE!!!!! GOD BLESS AMERICA!!!!!!

    October 23, 2008 at 12:41 pm |
  25. Herb

    Here here for Oregon's Vote by Mail. No pesky faulty machines that switch your vote. No long lines to wait in. No adverse weather to tend with. Just the comfort of my Big Chair and my ballot and election pamphlet.

    October 23, 2008 at 12:27 pm |