No matter who you are and what your political views are, there should be unanimous agreement that our electoral system is badly in need of a major overhaul. Candidates who wish to get on the ballot are faced with technicalities that favor incumbents. The ballot counting process is slow and archaic, which leads to weeks of waiting for final results. The question is does anyone in power really want to make changes in the process?
Of all the states, New York has made some attempts to clean up the voting mess, but there is still much to be done. Florida, which is not known to be fair to minorities or Democrats, is allowed to count the ballots prior to Election Day and can announce the final results within hours after the polls close. A few other states tabulate all mail-in ballots prior to the big day and can announce results quickly.
Earlier this year, because of the Covid-19 virus, Gov. Cuomo required that all registered voters receive an absentee ballot form. This resulted in a large voter participation in the June congressional primary. There is no reason why registered voters should not get a mail ballot prior to any election, other than the fact that the incumbents don’t want too many people to vote. If Florida can have the election results within hours after the polls close, it’s time for New York to upgrade their counting process and do the same.
As you look around the country, the electoral system is a crazy quilt pattern of different laws. Currently 21 percent of the voters receive their ballots in the mail. That’s equal to 44 million voters. Some 57 percent of the voters are allowed to use absentee voting with no conditions. That is equal to 118 million voters. And 22 percent of the voters are allowed to use an absentee ballot, but they need a valid excuse to use that process. That covers 46 million voters.
This year’s final voter numbers are the highest in over 120 years. That is no accident. Because of the virus, three-quarters of all American voters were eligible to receive a ballot in the mail. Because of the staggering voter turnout it is estimated that election boards have received 80 million mail ballots. That’s where the problem is. In some states, the officials are allowed to start opening the ballots up to five days prior to Election Day. In many other states, the mail ballots cannot be opened until the polls close. Sadly, in at least 10 states, the ballots are not opened for at least three to seven days after the election.
The disparity in voting laws is no accident. Some states as far back as the early 1900s, have refused to overhaul their election laws. The reasoning behind that policy is that the state’s leaders do not want too many people to vote. If they keep the laws static, they can keep voter participation down and that suits their purposes. The fewer people who vote, the more the final numbers are controllable.
There is a solution to the country’s voting mess. Get the Congress to pass a national voting law so that voting procedures are the same in all 50 states. That sounds very practical, but there is no chance that will ever happen. State governments are very protective of their voting rights and the last thing they would do is to let Congress take away those powers.
This year’s voting process was agonizing and confusing. We painfully watched and waited for results of machine and hand tabulations. We sat glued to our television sets waiting breathlessly for final results. We heard multiple rumors about state results that were false. It was an awful experience, which is destined to be repeated once again in the next national election in 2024.