Monday, November 03, 2008

World's Greatest Democracy: Three, Four and More Hours

Can any reader please explain why queues to vote in the world's greatest democracy (sic) can be more than four hours a throw, whereas here in East Chorlton it generally takes no more than four minutes in person or 40 seconds by post? Just wondering. The parties have top notch lawyers observing to avoid any unfairness. Can we help them out? More ballot boxes at more locations perhaps?

ABOVE: Queues at Soweto, Pennsylvania are expected to be reduced from four days this time round. Hurrah.


Paul said...

I posit that it's because in order to vote in primaries you usually have to say what party you support on your registration paper, and that this therefore makes you ineligible to be a polling station personn in case you are biased and likely to cheat.

This in turn means that there's hardly anyone left who's both vaguely engaged with the political process and has not declared political affinity, and therefore there's no-one to serve at polling stations.

I have no evidence of this whatsoever, but it seems possible, and until anyone else comes up with anything better I'm right

Anonymous said...

Unlikely I'd have said. Could it be to put off the democratic lumpens, leaving the republican lumpens to make hay?

Everybody Hates Chris said...

I suspect much of it is to do with the sheer number of individual elections and referenda that people in the USA are faced with when entering the booths. In some cases, a voter may have 50 choices to make. It is not like the UK where we have to put a simple cross on aa piece of paper (or two).

So I agree that there should either be far more polling stations or people to staff them - or both.

Thankfully, far more people have been able to vote from home by post this time and, even with an increased turnout, the queues may be shorter than they have been in the past.

I also suspect that Obama supporters may be more willing to wait in line for hours than McCain's.

Chris Paul said...

On that last remark, that has not been the case in the past, particularly with shenanigans deliberately trying to suppress their enthusiasm. This time will hopefully be different.

If they really have 50 choices to make ... why is that then? That could be fixed surely.

Thanks for posting on topic.

Everybody Hates Chris said...

I didn't necessarily mean that Democrats are more likely to queue than Republicans, just that this time I think Obama may have engendreed not just more voters but more enthuistic ones.

In some states there are votes for everything from President down to Dog Catcher via Water Boards, Senators, Governors and a whole paraphenalia of state, county and city wide officials.

And in some states there are referenda on Propositions on various specific issues.

In parts of California last year (so not even one in which the President was elected) there were 55 choices to make. 20 is far from uncommon.

In some places they have voting machines where you can just pull one lever in order to vote for a party's complete ticket. But otherwise, the act of participation can easily take up to 15 minutes in the booth.

If you can think of a way to streamline that, Chris, I promise you they will be more than grateful.

I always post on topic!

Everybody Hates Chris said...

I'm certainly not one that would support people having to queue for hours just to vote, but I have just heard a story told by Emily Thornberry (Labour MP, Islington South) on Radio 4 last night.

She was talking to a South African activist and Emily was explaining about the technique of 'knocking up' supporters on election day to get them to the polling stations.

The reply was, "What sort of poor democracy do you live in where you have to ask people to vote?"

I suppose the question is, does a long snaking queue to vote ahow evidence of a deficient democracy or a thriving one?

I may get angry at seeing such a sight in Miami Beach, but when I see a similar one in Bulawayo I find their defiance heart-warming.

Chris Paul said...

Indeed. They're just starting out. the USA is supposed to be perfect. Everything but President, Senate and Congress and perhaps key local officials could and should be done by post if that's what's slowing these queues down.

How many votes are there actually in this election in a typical state. Let's say Virginia.

Everybody Hates Chris said...

If you want a massive increase in the amount of fraud, or in accusations of fraud, then the USA should follow your advice and extend the use of postal ballots.

For so many reasons it just isn't going to happen. Because of the whole system of checks and balances, becuase of the massive issue of campaign funding and because elections there are run and paid for at county level, it won't happen.

Labour tried it here. It has been a disaster. Can you imagine a full postal vote election in Florida or Illinois?

The only solution is more and better staffed polling stations.

Miles said...

BBC has article on chaos at US polls here:

And all parties in Birmingham opposed to postal voting. See here: