Your Vote Might Count

There has been lots of talk during the 2012 election season about efforts to suppress the vote or, as I like to refer to it, “thinning the electorate.” The legislative requirement that voters validate their existence with documentary evidence was part of that effort, made supposedly less onerous by letting forgetful people fill out provisional ballots and then come back with the paper-work a few days later. Suspicious people assumed that the provisional ballots would, like the ballots of absentee voters never be counted, regardless of whether they’d be validated, because that’s what had always been done. Nobody bothered to count the ballots of absent voters, unless their number was large enough to make a difference in a tight race, because, speaking frankly, it would require a lot of work that people who couldn’t be bothered to show up in person weren’t worth.

Besides, rubber stamp voters who just followed the party line were largely considered a nuisance by the political operatives, who had to go through a lot of effort for what they considered to be entirely predictable results. Which they were in large part because a significant percentage of the vote, enough votes to make a difference, had always been thrown out, as a matter of course, because voters had made mistakes. See, it’s always the voters fault when votes don’t get counted.

When the State of Georgia was persuaded to go all electronic with voting machines, the Secretary of State was most conscientious and made lots of speeches to interested citizen groups, explaining that one of the main reasons for going electronic was because when paper ballots were used, they routinely threw out ten percent because of one mistake or another — like voting for three people instead of the two needed to fill available positions. Who knew that one mistake would cancel the whole ballot?

Some people might say that the documentary hoop is just another effort to introduce an “opportunity” for people to make mistakes and get their votes canceled. Others don’t get the problem because they can’t imagine why anyone would want to suppress the vote. It doesn’t occur to them that decades of hand-wringing over low voter participation were actually expressions of glee that only the habit-prone base had turned out and independent thinkers had been persuaded not to waste their time and stayed home. Who knew that the old guard had been working year in and year out, round the clock, to make voting a special event for some people (their base) and unattractive for most?

Who knew that the press and other purveyors of propaganda had a common interest in controlling the outcome of races, not just because they are into control, but because their business model is geared to the horse race and candidates contesting each other, rather than having to pay attention to what the voters actually do? Who knew that part of that business model demands a sudden end, a clear decision on election day, so they can go on to the next event, even though all the votes, absentee and provisional, haven’t been counted yet? Apparently not Dr. Carmona, who was persuaded to concede the election for the U.S. Senate from Arizona to Mr. Flake, even though over six hundred thousand ballots have yet to be counted; more than half of which are the result of early voting.

Presumably, the concession won’t count, if the results of counting the early voting ballots show that Carmona was actually selected by the majority. But, there’s still the problem that, if the people who filled out provisional ballots are led to think their vote is not going to count anyway, they likely won’t bother to come back with the validating papers, creating a self-fulfilling prophecy and validating the preconceived notion that some voters just aren’t serious and don’t deserve to be considered. And for some people, validating preconceived notions is sweeter than any success. Not to mention that counting is such a drag.

See, it’s not even necessary to posit any kind of antagonism to account for suppressing the vote. Laziness and a cavalier attitude will take care of it.

Real Dems Count Votes Image: by Talk Radio News Service via their flickr photostream and used Creative Commons license.

Monica Smith

Monica Smith writes Hannah's Blog. Born in Germany, she came to the United States as a child, living first in California, then after an interval in Chile, in New York. Married to a retired professor at the University of Florida, where she lived for 17 years, she moved to St. Simons Island, Georgia, in 1993 and now divides her time between Georgia and New Hampshire. (New Hampshire, she says, is always interesting during a presidential election.) She and her husband have three children and five grandchildren. Ms. Smith says she "learned long ago that I am not a good team player when I got hired at the Library of Congress, fresh out of college with a degree in political science and proficiency in four foreign languages, to 'edit' library cards and informed my supervisor that if she was going to insist I punch the clock exactly on time, my productivity was going to fall from being the highest to being the same as everyone else's. The supervisor opted to assign me to another building where there was no time-clock. After I had the first of our three children, I decided a paycheck wasn't worth the hassle."