Making democracy work.

The growing number of pathetic stories in the media about the diminished willingness to vote can get to you.  You really wish that the editor or news director who asked for that piece had found a good fire to report instead.  Mind you a small story about Markham’s improved voting by using the Internet caught the eye this morning.  Babel should really pay attention to that.

In the last municipal election, your writer spent most of the time that polls were open visiting polling places, talking with the city staff people manning them and observing the procedures.  Babel uses electronic voting machines to screw up the voting process.

And it is going to get worse.  Once every four years, people who do not understand what they are doing are going to be inadequately trained to do an unfamiliar job under the instruction of people who have no experience with the process.  Municipal voting in Babel is a truly frightening process.  The only thing that saves us from the process becoming corrupt is that nobody cares that much.

Can you imagine an interview with an applicant for the job of city clerk: one of the questions relates to the city clerk being the municipality’s chief returning officer.  “Tell us, Miss. Jones, as the job includes being the returning officer, what do you know about elections?”  Would you believe an answer that the applicant once voted would be the most likely response?

Federal and provincial electoral districts each have highly trained and experienced elections officers permanently in place for when elections occur.  They are drawn from the ranks of political parties based on their knowledge and acceptability to the party in power.  The chief returning officer is their boss and this person is charged with ensuring that they are fair and honest in their dealings with the political parties and the public.  That system works well, most of the time.

In travels around Babel during the last municipal election, we found that the municipal employees were doing the best job they could.  There was some ambiguity in their written instructions and this resulted in some rather funny interpretations.  In one poll, we found the clerk had placed the candidate scrutinizers at one end of a large room while the polls they were scrutinizing where at the other end.  When she understood that scrutinizing included hearing what was going on at a poll as well as seeing, we had the room rearranged.

The main, and most obvious, problem Babel has is that its cumbersome, already antiquated electronic voting machines are not even a third of the number required.  The city needs to include Internet voting for the next municipal election.  To do that there needs to be a taskforce in place today to get it ready.  And the taskforce had better include people who know something about how politics works.


Copyright 2011 © Peter Lowry

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