19 November 2012

Day 138: USA - Land of Liberty and Democracy?

Although the USA is often seen as the land of liberty and democracy, its federal election procedure is completely incompetent:

"The United States is an exceptional nation, but it is not always exceptional for good. The American voting system too is an exception: It is the most error-prone, the most susceptible to fraud, the most vulnerable to unfairness and one of the least technologically sophisticated on earth."

An ideal democratic election procedure looks as follows:
- You know the results as soon as the polls close
- Votes are counted electronically
- Every district and state has the same rules and the same organised procedure for voting
- The voting procedure is managed by an independent electoral agency

How does the USA perform on these parameters?

State and local laws cause big distinctions in terms of how elections are held in each region, making national standards impossible. In some states you don't even have to present your ID when you vote. Other nations use completely outdated technology and equipment. An example here were the 200 elections in St. Louis, Missouri. Because no investment was done to improve outdated equipment, creating long delays on voting day. At poll-closing time, people were still cuing to cast their vote all over the city. Because many inhabitants of St. Louis are democratic, Al Gore asked a judge to extend voting time with three hours in St. Louis. The judge granted this request. The Republicans however, appealed and the decision was revoked.

Yes - that's right -there is no independent election body that supervises the elections and politicians are able to interfere by asking possibly partisan local judges to make exceptions on their behalf. But parties' interference does not stop there. Politicians often schedule voting in a way that is in their advantage and in the disadvantage of the opponent. Voting places are moved around for the same reason. Elections themselves are just an extension of parties' campaigns.

So - the US scores badly on all four of the above-mentioned parameters. Now add to this that voting day always falls on a Tuesday, a working day, making it hard for many to actually cast their vote - and: international election observers present to make sure that the elections are conducted in a democratic way - were banned from nine nations - of which some threatened with arrest.

Democracy means that the country is run by the people and for the people. Considering the ridiculousness of the facts that people only get to cast their vote once every four years, that election campaigns are all about who's got the most money to run the best campaign and who has the best poker-face in making promises they never intend to keep and then the scandalously inadequate voting procedures - just how are the American population governing themselves?

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