Two months ahead of major elections, and four years after the passage of the Help America Vote Act -- which was designed in part to eliminate, nationally, the kind incompetence and outright criminality that marred the 2000 election -- the machinery of US democracy still leaves much to be desired. As Sasha Abramsky notes in the current issue of Mother Jones, the chances that your vote will count, the ease with which you can cast your ballot, even your odds of getting on a voter roll, greatly vary according to where you live.
As it turns out, except for a rudimentary federal framework (which determines the voting age, channels money to states and counties, and enforces protections for minorities and the disabled), U.S. elections are shaped by a dizzying mélange of inconsistently enforced laws, conflicting court rulings, local traditions, various technology choices, and partisan trickery.
Among the more striking regional discrepancies:
- In some places voters fill in paper ballots; in others they vote with ancient machines; in still others they use state-of-the-art touch-screen technology
- Some states encourage voter registration, others make it a hassle
- Some states allow prisoners to cast a ballot, others don't allow even ex-felons tovote
The piece offers a partial--but sadly emblematic-- list of "American democracy's more glaring weak spots."
Read it here...and weep.