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Everything Can be Overdone …

… even democracy.

The upcoming elections have been casting their shadow ahead for a long time, but now things are starting in earnest: from tomorrow on early voting will be possible here in the State of Texas. For someone used to the German system of voting the system here in the US is more than complicated. Not only that you have to register to be able/allowed to vote at all, and that early in the voting years there are the primaries to determine which candidates from the respective parties will be in the ballot competing against each other, but now the voters are encouraged to go online and to thoroughly get acquainted with their ballots so as to avoid mistakes in filling it in on the one hand and on the other hand ensure a speedy voting process on the actual day of voting and thus avoiding any delay when waiting times of one and a half to two hours are more the rule than the exception anyway.

Here in the US all sorts of offices and measures are on the ballot, the candidates for the office of the President of the United States, Senators, Representatives and as e.g. here in Karnes City/County positions such as Sheriff, County Attorney and County Tax Assessor-Collector. Besides that, the voters are asked about matters of financing the local ISD, and, in San Antonio e.g., about increasing the local sales tax by one-eighth of a percent to finance pre-k4 education. Here in Karnes City/County there are 34 different items where a decision is required, which can mean choosing among 4 candidates for some offices or voting for one or not voting there, when someone us running unopposed.

All that leads to the fact that nearly each and every precinct needs a different ballot, a fact that not only always leads to confusion but is also prone to errors, e.g. when the wrong ballot is sent to single mail-in voters or even to whole precincts.

The disadvantages – my American friends may forgive me – are obvious and they are constantly mentioned/discussed in the press:

  • Many voters are clearly unable to cope with such a complicated/lengthy ballot.
  • Many voters do not care to look at the complete ballot but at the beginning only [so-called “voting-fatigue”], which leads to the undesirable outcome that the further down on the ballot a name/issue is placed the less attention and, consequently, votes it gets. This is definitely the case with printed ballots whereas with computerized voting the voter at least has to look at each page/screen [in some precincts in San Antonio as many as 59!!! screens] and then has to deliberately hit a button to go on before the voting-process can be completed.
  • Many voters vote – for simple ease of voting – “straight party ticket”, choosing automatically the candidate of the respective party wherever there is a choice by party.

What I dislike most in this system, btw, is the fact that judges even quite far up the “judicial ladder” are elected and thus have to actively campaign which makes them dependent on campaign donations, sometimes from interested parties whose cases will be on their dockets later. Nobody is going to convince me that judicial independence will not be the casualty in such a process. And what is more, in some states judges can even be recalled at mid-term elections, a fact that naturally is used by interested parties to punish them for decisions these groups disagree with and thus to keep them in line.

As I haven’t been able to find a sample ballot for Karnes City/County online, I have a link here to one randomly-chosen precinct in San Antonio.

Um diesen Beitrag in Deutsch zu lesen, hier klicken.

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