Elections need reform

One year later, news regarding the last presidential election continues to surface. In the latest round, it has been reported President George W. Bush would have won a recount of the disputed Florida counties, though he would have lost if a statewide recount had been conducted.

Maybe.

Fortunately or unfortunately, the methods by which Florida conducted their elections preclude any hope of knowing who actually won the 2000 election, as far as votes are concerned. Either way, the Sept. 11 attacks and the resulting state of our nation prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that presidential elections must never again be allowed to boil down to a war of lawyers. The decision is just too important.

America must utilize current technology to bring its elections procedures up to date. That isn’t even a question anymore. Now, the only problem is how we will do so. States’ rights – a major point of contention during last year’s debacle – versus federal governance presents the greatest roadblock to any sweeping, nationwide shift in election methods.

Such a change would require hundreds of thousands of new computers to serve as voting machines. It would also require omputerized identification systems, technicians, software and trainers for election officials. To ensure fairness, every area of the country would have to get the equipment more or less at the same time, creating the enormous problem of who will fund the project. If left up to the states, implementation would be slow and so unevenly distributed between poorer and wealthier communities that the change would be rendered virtually pointless. On the other hand, a federally-supplied homogenous nationwide voting system would, to some, constitute unwarranted federal interference in community elections.

But there is a middle ground. The U.S. government should pay for all the new machines and ensure they are being used by state elections officials. However, their influence must end there. Election oversight and judging should continue to be monitored by state governments, as it is now.

By funding the overhaul, the federal government would have to be responsible not only for the machines, but the software they use. As a result, the general practice of voting would become more accurate, faster and regular across state and district lines. Controlling only these superficial aspects of the voting practice, if done correctly, would not subvert individual states’ authority. Essentially, federal authorities would direct voting, not elections. And last year’s presidential election snafu shows how important seemingly insignificant aspects like a ballot’s layout can become.

By nationally standardizing the nuts and bolts just of the actual voting, the government can remove electoral power from the courts and help put it back in the hands of its rightful caretakers: the people.