Rohit's Realm

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November 04, 2008

Electoral Efficiency

Election Day 2008 is finally upon us, and after forty-five frustrating minutes waiting in line at my polling place, from 6:30–7:15 a.m., I can now attest to having fulfilled my civic duty. Since it is almost a near certainty that my vote will not matter in the least,1 I thought I might post on something other than my political persuasion (as I have in years past). Thus, rather than ranting about stupidity of the despicable masses, I will instead discuss the grossly inefficient process we like to follow to gather the worthless opinion of said masses, and how we might improve our—and their—sorry lot. And for those cynical readers out there, I will have you know that disenfranchising large swaths of the population is only part of my brilliant solution.

I begin as I must with this simple proposition: given that most people's votes do not matter, and further, that we as a society would like to encourage people to vote, the last thing we ought to do is to make this process difficult. Unfortunately, as experience every two years demonstrates, the election process in the US is mind-bogglingly inefficient (in addition to corrupt, and possibly, futile). The question that ineluctably follows from this observation is: why? Why are we so encumbered, or more suitably for the Realm, which group or groups of assholes is to blame for this inefficiency?

My status on Twitter this morning presented the initial conundrum well: 6:30 am, and lines out the door at the poll. Who to hate more? Chicago, for gross inefficiency, or the masses, for gross ineptitude? At first blush, those inclined to misanthropy (as I am want to be) might assume that the greater blame is to be placed on the unwashed masses for their demonstrated ineptitude in being unable to fill out a rather uncomplicated ballot. This theory is not without its merits. The masses are indeed pretty fucking dumb, and certainly, at least some of the endemic delays must be attributed to, among other things, their thinly-veiled illiteracy and their cerebral powers that mimic lifeforms far below humans on the evolutionary tree.

Upon further investigation, however, one is inclined to conclude that the greater blame likely lies with the system itself, not the worthless masses that toil within the system. For example, my experience at the polls this morning was a case study in idiotic behavior. To begin with, there was a huge bottleneck wherein one rather old and slow dude searched through a massive binder of names while three other people sat around behind the desk. The process of finding your name and signing the card took about three minutes on average. Next, you were sent to a guy whose only job was to hand you the ballot and marker, but who somehow managed to be slower than the first guy. Finally, three other people were lurking around the polling area, and seemed to only exist to interrupt the first two guys with asinine questions, further delaying an already inefficient process. Add to that old people who could not hear, stupid people who could not read, and dirty people who clearly had not showered in days, and it was all I could do to simply not leave after two minutes.

Things need not be this way. Simple fixes would go a long way in resolving many of these inefficiencies. For instance, why the binder of papers? I can understand not wanting electronic voting machines (for reasons I will not discuss here), but is there any reason not to have electronic voter rolls? Inevitably, the data is in a computer somewhere. Why then print it out for Election Day? Why not just equip each site with a computer? Good for the environment, good for my sanity.

Next, why only one guy doing the check-in? This is a solved problem! In San Francisco, the names were divided by last name, such that one person had half the alphabet and the other the other half. Why is this so difficult? Indeed, with four people sitting around doing nothing, would not it be easier to divide the alphabet in four?

The inefficiency created by the old, the stupid, and the dirty is more problematic. Ideally, these people would recognize their woeful ways and simply end it all. Absent that, however, they must be accommodated, but no one said in the same location. Would it really be all that difficult to set up two lines, one for experienced voters and the other for newbies and tools? Self-selection can be a powerful force, and anecdotal evidence suggests it works rather well in other arenas (for example, airport security lines).

A more dramatic solution to this latter problem might be to simply force encourage all such slow individuals to vote early. Everyone wins this way. Those who have little time to spare, and thus favor the proximity of their own polling location, may do so quickly on Election Day. Those with nothing but (other people's) time to waste, either because they are old, or because they are worthless, may do so before. The people speak, and the debacle that is American democracy continues unencumbered.

Without doubt, most of what I propose above is likely to run afoul of the law. That, however, should not deter us in our good fight. If history has taught us anything, it is that we ought not let silly things like the law get in the way of efficiency. Anything else would be un-American.

^ 1 This brings up an interesting aside. To date, I have never been in a location on Election Day where my vote would mean anything at all. I spent my first six years of eligibility in California, which has as good a chance of turning red as Palin has of composing a grammatically sound sentence, and am now in Illinois, which could not turn red even if it wanted to due to massive unchecked corruption. I likely do not want to live any place my vote might matter. That probably means that place sucks.


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