Election Design

October 31, 2008 § 5 Comments

As has been talked about much this election, many people are using “early voting” as a way to ensure their vote is cast and counted. This is an important trend that faces the larger issues of a democracy with 300 million people and 50 states, namely making sure the process of voting is fair for all involved.

Frankly, the notion of everyone voting on one day is archaic and needs to be re-thought. I’m not sure the form this should take, but given how important the perception of a fair election is, why not change from Election Day to Election Week? This way the polls could be open from 7:00 AM – 6:00 PM, Monday through Friday, allowing those who can’t get off work for whatever reason, have an emergency, are infirm, elderly, or those who experience mishaps at the polling station, the time to vote. Is the act of voting, and subsequently, Democracy, not important enough that we can’t agree to lower the bar for those who wish to vote?

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§ 5 Responses to Election Design

  • ken says:

    Hi, Jeff. I agree with you.

    PA doesn’t allow early voting (except via an absentee ballot). I recently read a Post-Gazette article about it that explained the reasons against it. The one that makes most sense is that early voters are voting knowing less than those who vote on election day. You know, what if something big is revealed after you vote, but before the real election day?

  • jefftzucker says:

    Good point on the argument against. I’ve thought about that because I’ve been in Indiana this summer/fall and people started voting 2-3 weeks ago, which is admittedly, kind of strange.

    I’m not sure what the cure for that is, but even if voting was a 2 or 3-day election process, that would spread out the crush of people over, businesses could schedule workers around voting, voters can make arrangements to get to the poll, and perhaps most importantly, if there is a polling station snafu, there is another day to get voting done.

    The current set up of one 12 hour election time seems a bit narrow in reach, flexibility, and allowance for mess-ups. The voting day and law was created in 1845 (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/US_election_day), when only white males were allowed to vote. While I can’t be sure, I’m betting the voting lines were a lot shorter then…

  • Imran says:

    personally, I think a lot of the process is archaic. I say that people should be able to cast votes as early as they might be able to. Let’s say after the final debate.

    Then, you should be able to do cast it online (through some sort of super-secure-identity-checking system). And then be able to change your vote to any candidate up until November 4th. Of course, no one would be able to access the data until the clock strikes a certain time, then BOOM it says the winner instantaneously.

    I think there are too many silly laws and arbitrary dates. There should just be one centralized voting system… in my idealized world, anyway.

  • jefftzucker says:

    @Imran – You crazy technophile, you.

    Seriously, though, that’s a heck of an idea—intensely forward-looking. However, there are so many security questions and fears of technology that I’m not sure it would fly for a while, like when “The Millennials” are 75 years old and the whole society is comfortable with the Internet and computers (in whatever form they take then).

    I do think it is darn near scandalous that there are problems with the voting process. If there is one thing we should get right no matter what, it’s the voting process.

    I guess it would be a good time to give a shout out to Marcia Lausen’s Design for Democracy. I don’t think the book quite covers an overhaul of the voting process, but rather makes the case for making the current situation as good as it can be.

  • Imran says:

    Yeah, the fear of technology thing is the kicker. I’m sure in reality a centralized online system would be more secure than all the hu-mans that are involved in the process. But it’s those darn hu-mans and their e-motions that are the trouble.

    What would be nice though, dealing with the current system, is just some sort of tracing of your vote, so that you know where it is and what sort of processing is happening to it. Even if your vote is on a touchscreen… maybe whenever you’re watching the news or seeing a count of the vote, or seeing an electoral map, there is a little icon next to the vote number/state/etc… that shows where your vote is being counted towards–regardless of the way it happens, I think having your vote live on is something comforting. As it stands it seems like your vote is cast into an abyss, and you hope/assume things work out.

    Point being, like many public / governmental stuff… there is soo much opportunity, and so little that’s actually capitalized on.

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