#96– Surviving the communications age, part 3.

Frankly, some people would be best to stay away from technology.  It is like the problems in Babel with municipal voting.  It is not the computerized voting machines that are wrong.  It is the people responsible for the machines that cause the problems.

Babel is not exactly technology ready.  Babel is a small town with aspirations.  City hall staffers want to act like they think a large and sophisticated city staff might act but they have never had a role model to show them how.  This tends to make many of the staff carry out their duties in an insufferably bureaucratic manner.  What they do not know, they bluff.  And they do not know a great deal.  Babel is a bluffer’s paradise.

Their first problem with the voting machines is that the city employees responsible for them have no experience in elections.  Unlike provincial and federal elections that are run by highly experienced political appointees in each constituency, municipal elections are run by people who have no clue as to what the political process is all about.  They take pride in their lack of knowledge.  They equate cluelessness with neutrality.

This cluelessness leaves them wide open for manipulation.  Politically savvy people running campaigns for local politicians see this vulnerability and they use the city employees unmercifully in carrying out their objectives.  More favourable rulings are easily obtained from people who do not understand the rules in the first place.  The only balancing of this is when competing politicos find rulings are unfair to their candidates.

But the people who really suffer in this situation are the voters.  Nobody seems to care about them.   Voting machines are supposed to speed the process.  There is no other excuse for their use.  Babel civic employees seem to use them to impede the process.  Imagine how efficient the damn things might be if people had an opportunity to learn how they work, before having to use them.  Instead, a city employee has to stand there and give every voter instructions to help them to vote.

What happens is that the city does not buy enough voting machines and discourages people from voting because of impossibly long line-ups at too few voting places.  They have brief four-hour advance polls at large apartment buildings but, on the scheduled election day, the nearest poll is several kilometres away.  They have actually reversed the advance poll problems.  Instead of making the advance polls difficult to find, they have made the regular polls less convenient.

The bureaucratic people running the election also have no concept of why politicos working for candidates need their information, in a useable form and on time.  They will offer the lists of voters who have already voted in the election and then rescind their offer without understanding the costs of that change to the candidates.

Maybe part of the fault is the confusing language of the Municipal Election Act of 1996 from the Ontario Government.  You would have thought those people knew something about elections.

But, until Babel’s civil servants move more effectively into the communications era, they should go back to using paper ballots and pencils.

– 30 –

Complaints, comments, criticisms and compliments can be sent to   peter@lowry.me

Tags: , , ,

Comments are closed.