Isn't it a crime that the U.S.A. election system has not been reorganized to ensure the accurate counting of votes?
I shouldn't admit this but when I was young watching TV news in Iowa I would feel a bit contemptuous of countries voting with paper ballots. On the black and white screen we saw people dropping their votes into a clear plexiglass box. "Ha, we have machines for voting. They haven't caught up to us yet,' I would smugly think. Ah, the cultural arrogance of some Americans!
In this new millineum I isten to the reports of computer hacking, voter intimidation and all the many problems while voting in the United States. Remember the voting problems that became undeniable starting when the Supreme Court decided an election and the number of votes became irrevelant? Who can forget, it's still shocking!
Older and wiser, I have immigrated to Greece. Due to an agreement of cooperation between the governments of Greece and the United States I hold dual citizenship. I vote with an absentee ballot for federal elected officials in the U.S. government (the President, Senators and federal Congressional Representative for my district). Here in Crete I place my vote in person.
Let me tell you about my first time voting in Chania, Crete.
"This is a day to celebrate, a celebration of democracy," comments an elderly man on the television news.
It's 7 a.m. on Sunday, October 15, 2006. I have my coffee and TV news talk shows. The essentials of my morning routine remain the same although I no longer live in the Iowan time zone. I'm settling into life in Greece with same habits, different language!
Here we'll be voting for two city council members and the prefecture commissioner.
Although voters can find their polling site on the government web site, I learned where to vote from the list plastered on the wall at the plaza of my neighborhood. I arrived at the site, a public school, and checked the handwritten signs for names beginning with the letter ‘n'.
I felt comfortable as I walked into the classroom for voting. The set up is the same as in the States only the noise level is different. There are no buzzing sounds of students engaged in their studies or uproarious noise signaled by clanging bells as students pass to their next classrooms. Voting here takes place on Sunday when people have time to vote. Students have a day off the Friday preceding the vote so everything can be made ready and another day off the Monday after the vote in order to prepare the schools for normal use.
Poll workers sit at two long tables short-edged together along the southerly black boarded wall. I show my ID to the lawyer at the table, after she nods a young man uses yellow to highlight my name and carefully uses the straight edge of a ruler to cross it off the computer printout with street addresses. I was handed a white envelope with a self-adhesive closure and a perforated pull tab to be used for easy-rip opening during the vote counting.
Two tables shoved together along the west wall hold piles of white sheets of paper, all but two piles printed with lists of candidates in clean black lettering. One of the poll workers has a pile ready for me which I accept on my way to one of the two curtained voting booths a few steps away. Inside I find one lonely pencil to mark an x and a very large garbage can for the sheets of paper that do not get tucked into my envelope.
I had six sheets of paper, one blank in case I decided I didn't like any of the choices offered by the five parties. I threw away the blank and four of the lists from the four political parties I had rejected. I voted for one of the candidates running in the party called "Chania Growth" with its tagline, "We can react with our vote for the further benefits we deserve." I slipped my vote into the plexiglass box situated in front of the tables where names are checked.
I've been handed another envelope then I step again to the table with piles of paper and accept a packet of six sheets of paper. For city council I knew I wanted to vote for two men who work for the city water department and value water as an important natural resource. They are members of the "Chania 21rst Century" party which has the tag line "We Continue Together" (because it's the party of the current Mayor). There were 41 candidates running for city council from this one party alone! I mark my two x's, slip my ballot into the envelope, seal the envelope, walk out of the booth and place the envelope through the slot of the plexiglass box.
Because of the multiple problems with voting machines and computers we should use paper ballots and transparent voting boxes in the US. Easy, cheap and it would save a heck a lot of electricity. Votes must be counted with observers present.
Paper ballots and plexiglass boxes may not seem as sophisticated as computerized voting but it's the accuracy that counts, not how it looks on television.