Friday, December 10, 2010

A Shot of Common-Sense for the US Voting System

Now that it's been over a month since the 2010 elections were held, Minnesota has ended the recount for the gubernatorial race and is welcoming DFL-er Mark Dayton as the new governor. Since I live in the land that gave us a former pro-wrestler, Jesse Ventura, as a governor and a comedian, Al Franken from Saturday Night Live fame, as a US Senator, I should not really be surprised by Minnesotans choosing a multi-millionare, Mark Dayton, as the next governor. Right on the heels of that blue-collar workhorse, Tim Pawlenty. But that is besides the point . . . at least the recount in the 2010 Minnesota governor's race ended somewhat quickly.

Do you remember the Norm Coleman and Al Franken recount of 2008? I think that recount dragged on for over six months and dug deep into taxpayer pockets for financing. Norm Coleman eventually conceded the race for many dubious reasons that I'll not drag out now. Let's just say that it was interesting to learn in July 2010 that 341 convicted felons had voted for Al Franken in the 2008 election. Which is completely ILLEGAL in case you've forgotten! Franken ended up winning his US Senate seat by 312 votes. Perhaps we need a voting system that truly doesn't allow convicted felons to vote in the first place.

Maybe you remember Florida's "hanging-chads" of the 2000 Presidential race between George W. Bush and Al Gore with the Presidential outcome teetering back and forth for weeks. Or a less-covered 2010 US Senate race in Washington State where Dino Rossi lost his race to Patty Murray, also in a recount. However, this wasn't the first race Mr. Rossi lost in a recount. It was his third. One of which he lost by a mere 129 votes after an 8-month long recount. The recount list could go on and on.

Instead of adding to the growing list of election recounts and spending millions of dollars on lawyers for the recounts, I propose a simple change. Use your drivers license or your state ID card as your voting card. Before you rule this out as impossible or too "big brotherish", hear me out. Think of all of the information that a bank or credit card company has on us when we swipe our debit or credit cards or type in the number on-line. Do we mind that credit card companies know our spending patterns, our social security numbers, and other critical data? No, we seem to happily hand that over when we apply for a credit card or apply for a bank loan. Why can't the same idea be applied to our drivers licenses?

Each drivers license or national ID card already has a magnetic strip on the back. This could be swiped at a polling place to verify that you yourself has voted once. Show your photo ID, swipe, and vote at some sort of digital or computerized voting booth that simply and automatically tabulates the data. (This voting system would be the same all across the United States.) Say you make a mistake and vote twice, it is red-flagged and you correct your mistake. At the bottom of your ballot would be a big red button stating "VOTE" with a disclaimer stating that you have reviewed your ballot and this is your final vote. It would be very simple and user-friendly for the elderly and confused.  Once the polls close, the results are tabulated efficiently with no room for error or fraud.

Voting with your drivers license or state ID would virtually eliminate the need for a recount and totally abolish the archaic vote-by-mail systems currently found in Oregon and Washington State. It would also eliminate different precincts counting votes many different ways. Too expensive to implement such a system nationwide? Well, look at how much the past recounts have cost. Then add up how many spending increases Al Franken has voted for that have been implemented during his two years in the US Senate. Maybe a one-time investment in a national voting system isn't the worst idea. 

Regardless of your political persuasion, I think we can all agree that the current voting system desperately needs an overhaul. Unless you like your hanging chads.

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