The student media organization of California State University Northridge

Daily Sundial

The student media organization of California State University Northridge

Daily Sundial

The student media organization of California State University Northridge

Daily Sundial

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Dysfunctional U.S. system of voting needs reform

Either due to the unnaturally complicated and often overlooked electoral college, or because we simply cannot count votes, the 2000 presidential election put in office a president the majority of voters did not elect and set in motion events that have altered the course of history.

Was the case of Florida in the 2000 election the exception? Can we be sure that the 2008 election won’t make Florida out of other states?

As we move further in our quest to transport democracy to the less fortunate countries of the world, it’s unfortunate that, here at home, we can’t elect a popularly elected president.

The electoral college, responsible for electing the president and vice president, was partly designed to avoid a tyrannical president who would win in a landslide for making grand promises and undermine the legitimacy of the other branches of government and the checks and balances system.

Ironically, it gave us a president who launched into an unpopular war and who ignored a check on his powers when he invaded Iraq without a declaration of war signed by congress.

So why don’t we have elections based on popular vote? What would be more democratic? Because the framers of the constitution believed not everyone is thought fit to vote.

They distrusted direct democracy. Alexander Hamilton has famously said democracy can turn to mob rule, something he worked hard to prevent.

So apart from creating a media frenzy, the counting of our votes does not determine the winner. The electors do.

Many states have enacted laws to prosecute “faithless electors” who refuse to vote for the candidate they have pledged to elect. None have been punished so far. But even if they are punished, it is done after the fact and their vote cannot be changed.

Nonetheless, the electors do pledge to vote the way the majority of their state votes. And, aside from a handful of times in U.S. history, they have kept their promise. So, absent direct democracy, our only chance of choosing the president is for our votes to be counted accurately.

As we become more and more entangled in the Iraq war, critics are quick to point the finger and lay blame on everyone from Middle Eastern extremists, to Bush, to the Republicans who agreed with him and the Democrats who didn’t object to the war effort.

But the fact remains that the system responsible for giving us a Supreme Court-appointed president is still in place and the 2000 election could be repeated.

After the 2000 election, the Los Angeles Times did an examination of the counting process and some of their findings reveal the disarray of elections at that time.

Alaska has more registered voters than voting-age people. In Texas, “vote whores” are paid by campaigns to do favors in exchange for people’s absentee ballots. Some students in Wisconsin say they voted up to four times in the election. In New York City and Louisiana, some of the voting machinery used was old and easily vulnerable to rigging. Robert Richie, executive director of the Center for Voting and Democracy, a nonprofit, nonpartisan election watchdog group told the Times, the country has learned from the 2000 election that “your vote certainly counts. On the other hand, your vote may not be counted.”

Voting becomes even more dysfunctional when there are no concrete rules for the election process and voting. Federal guidelines are only voluntary.

Arnold B. Uken, the Co-founder of the Election Technology Laboratory, told the Times after the 2000 election that mistakes can go undetected.

Uken said cars and airplanes are regulated, so why shouldn’t we demand anything less when we’re electing the president of the United States?

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