After hearing horror stories of polling places where there was an “hour or longer” wait in the queue and a ballot that took “almost an hour” to fill out, I finally went into my local polling place and cast my vote today. Elapsed time was about 20 minutes total, mostly standing in line waiting for a booth (well, a rickety plastic table with partitions). Two things got me thinking this morning: first, about what would happen if it really did take two hours to vote and how that might affect the outcome of an election, and second, about Colorado Amendment 36, which will change the way that Colorado allocates electoral votes…
As I stood in line waiting to vote, I couldn’t help realize that if it did take two hours to vote, that would be a simple and effective way to skew the results towards the Republican side: as a vast over-generalization, Republicans are business owners, while Democrats are hourly workers. I know, I know, there are plenty of counter-examples, but roll with me a bit here…
In a situation where it takes an exceptionally long amount of time to cast your vote, the workers who have a harder time explaining why they’re late, or have to punch a clock, will be more likely to walk out without voting. After all, what’s more important, keeping your job so you can feed your family or casting your vote in an election where millions of people are also casting votes? By contrast, a business owner or manager can easily make the decision to be a bit late into work – or leave early – and take their turn to vote however long it takes.
Even the rumor of exceptionally long polling times could skew the voting, and when we consider less and less affluent voters, they have less and less ability to allocate lots of time to cast their ballot. But it wasn’t just a rumor: at 8am when my wife went to vote, the line was “out the door and down to the street” at our local polling place and it did indeed take over an hour for people to be processed and vote. Why? Because of a poor allocation of manpower and resources at the polling place: they know in advance how many people are going to be voting, and they know from historical data that there are two big waves of voters, around 8am (on their way to work) and around 5pm (on their way home). So why not have the polls planned for the maximum capacity and then have plenty of empty polling stations the rest of the day? Hmmm…. if I were the type, I’d wonder about some sort of Republican-backed conspiracy, honestly.
And then there’s the fascinating Colorado State Amendment 36, which, if passed, will cause the electoral votes for the state to be allocated proportionally to the
actual votes cast, rather than the current all-or-nothing system.
Here’s the typically incomprehensible ballot wording:
I voted a strong yes for this amendment. I’ve always found it completely baffling that the Electoral College is used as a buffer to ensure that we don’t actually have direct elections in the United States but rather have these mini-popularity contests and end up with “swing states” and other states where the vote just doesn’t really matter because the state is “firmly Republican” or “staunchly Democratic”. It’s a travesty of representative democracy in my opinion, and I believe that the Electoral College has long since outlived its usefulness in American politics.
The only drag is that if Amendment 36 passes, Colorado will be the only state that has proportional electoral votes, but I can only hope that we’re the first, the trailblazer, and that the citizens of all the other states in the union will realize what a dramatic improvement to our electoral process would come about from having every state use a proportional electoral system. Imagine, all those maps on sites like Newsweek would be obsolete. Never again would we see “red” states and “blue” states, but rather an accurate representation of the will of the public, the citizenry of this nation, in the months leading to the election and then, most importantly, in the election results themselves.
But I go on too long. Whatever you do, whatever your beliefs, just vote. We can’t be any sort of representative democracy if we all can’t even cast our ballot on election day.