We currently live in the most technologically advanced society in the history of mankind. Why then has “Election Night” become “Election Week” or even “Election Month” in some places?
Way back in the year 2000 we had a hotly contested Presidential Election. I remember election night that year. The networks were calling states for Bush or Gore as the polls closed. As the night wore on, it became clear that it would all come down to the winner of Florida and its 25 Electoral Votes. But there was a problem. Some networks called Florida early for Gore, then retracted that call as different counties came in and Bush began to close the gap and eventually lead. It was embarrassing for the networks, and a mistake they have tried to not make again.
We went to bed that night, for the first time in my memory, not knowing who was elected President. Neither side conceded, the lawyers started flying into Florida, then came the lawsuits, all while recounts tried to sort out who won. For the next few weeks, as the counts kept coming in, we learned of the famous “hanging chads,” “pregnant chads,” and “butterfly ballots.” What happens to a ballot with a hanging or pregnant chad? If the ballot is “undervoted” then what? Can the poll worker decipher what the intent of the voter was? All these issues eventually led up to a Supreme Court decision.
In Bush v. Gore the Supreme Court decided that Florida’s ballot counting scheme created by the Circuit Court in Leon County could not be fairly implemented. Since the record presented to the court suggested ballots were counted using different standards, and methods which varied from individual ballots, to precincts, and county to county, there was no way to fix it in the time left before the results must be certified for the Electoral College. The decision was 7-2 saying the recount violated the Equal Protection clause, but 5-4 when deciding what the remedy to the problem should be. The majority decided to end the recount in Florida, due to the issues, and George W. Bush became the 43rd President.
After that fiasco in Florida vote counting occurred, Florida was mocked mercilessly for not being able to count votes. Late night comedians, political pundits, and pretty much anyone making infantile jokes about counting pointed at Florida to get a laugh.
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BUT THEN WHAT HAPPENED?
Florida decided not to be the butt of everyone’s jokes anymore. So Florida overhauled its election law and their counting system. If anyone was watching live on this past Tuesday, Florida’s polls closed and within about an hour and a half, all votes were counted, and the results were in. Also, don’t forget Florida sits in two different time zones, so it complicates things even more.
SO WHATS WRONG WITH ARIZONA AND NEVADA?
I throw all this in there to now say look at Arizona and Nevada. The polls close and they both seem to do a 20-30% count and go home for the night. Just like in 2020, now the whole country is waiting on them to finish their count and allot their votes or declare a victor. It’s ludicrous.
In 1845, Congress passed the Presidential Election Day Act making the Tuesday after the first Monday of November, Election Day for the President. Subsequently, the states and federal offices took to making that the standard day for their own elections.
Ever since then, improvements in communication have always made the system more efficient and led to faster results. From telegraph, to radio, to television, to coast-to-coast live broadcasts, all have led to Election Night getting massive amounts of voting data in, and being able to broadcast a winner to the public that night.
But all of a sudden in the past couple cycles we’ve been heading backwards. It makes no sense with all of the advanced systems we have, that this is still an issue. We’ve made voting so easy with mail in voting, drop off boxes, absentee ballots, and early voting but we’ve made the counting of votes go back toward the early 19th century. It also does not help assuage fears, or rumors, of voter fraud and cheating when you draw out results and there are changed outcomes.
Over 50 years ago we landed a man on the moon with less computing power than my iPhone, but we cannot get a state to accurately count their votes in a timely manner.
Maybe they will hire more than apparently one person on an eight-hour day to count votes? Maybe they will buy a machine to electronically count the votes? Or maybe by next month the Pony Express will finally deliver the results and we will know the balance of power in the Senate. Get your act together Arizona and Nevada.
I have spent my life in tech and new is not better. In New York to be more Eco friendly they replaced the traffic lights with LED. Then the light froze up and we’re covered in snow and did not work. The extra energy was heat and that melted the snow.
The advantage of a paper ballot is you gather then and lock the room at the precinct and we all count and report them. Much harder to cheat at scale. Many hands make for quick work and retired folk have hands, smarts, time and hopefully some ethics when together.
The current system is not ok. Show up on Election Day. Make it a national holiday and mandate you give people time to vote. Close down everything if you must. but get it done that day. Democracy dies in the darkness.
Totally agree that NV and AZ should do much better and I too remember what a shit show FL was a few decades ago. Back then Florida's incompetence led to a completely partisan outcome starting with it's Governor, the brother of one of the candidates, who stopped the vote count. Then a conservative supreme court ruled along party lines to side with their own. Fortunately for the country, Al Gore not only took the high road and conceded but also as VP didn't try to block the electoral vote count in congress. Imagine if something like that were to happen now with all the polarization that exists in this country and the election denying by a certain orange person and his followers? Could lead to an insurgency at the capital or even civil war. Love your stuff keep writing!