The strange case of the American voting system

Throughout the years, the United States of America have overwhelmed the whole world with unique technological inventions. Rockets, warplanes, radio transmissions, photo cameras, portable computers, cell phones, Internet, etc.—the legacy that has earned the planet’s respect is vast.

This well-deserved fame, along with the raging success of industries such as cinematography, music records and television, has allowed the country to propagate an image of perfection around the world, which extends over everything it produces. The admiration caused by the Made in USA brand prevents people from questioning certain peculiarities about the US, which are not necessarily up to technological superpower standards. The country’s electoral system is a clear example of this. In the year 2000, the whole world watched in awe as a scandal unfolded during the election where the Republican candidate George W. Bush won, as weeks passed before the outcome was finally disclosed. The doubts that arose over the results of this election persist even nowadays. An event carried out using obsolete technology, managed by unprepared authorities, and broadcast over TV channels that contradicted one another in many occasions, prevented people from getting accurate results and revealed a voting system, that in spite of the revisions made in 2002, is still in need of improvement. Curiously enough, the movie Recount reflects the situation lived during this election.

Another example that could be used to show the impending debt that the US government has with its citizens is the technology that has been established as standard. In the vast majority of counties, optical scanners are preferred over voting machines that generate vote receipts and work under the Direct Recording Electronic (DRE) mode.

The evident lag in terms of electoral systems becomes apparent when this situation is contrasted with that of Venezuela, which will be using for the first time this October a modern biometric authentication system to stop anyone from voting more than once. The technology that will be implemented by the National Electoral Council of Venezuela seeks to guarantee the one voter, one vote principle.

In spite of the time that has elapsed, the October 2012 presidential elections are coming in the midst of a serious debate on a topic that has already been solved years ago in many other countries. In most of the states of the Union, it is forbidden by law to demand an ID document from citizens attending the polling stations. Although it is obvious that unscrupulous citizens could be casting multiple ballots, stealing other voters’ identity, the debate has taken a political turn, which is why it is far from being solved. Republicans are usually in favor of demanding an ID from citizens in order for them to have access to their right to vote, while Democrats reject this measure. It is estimated that most of those who lack an ID are potential Democrat voters.

Beyond the harm inflicted to the exemplary North American democracy, another worrying aspect of all this is that the U.S., as a world power that exerts influence over the whole world thanks to the reputation and credibility it lies on, ends up inciting other countries to copy its electoral system. Countries that wish to improve their election management turn to less developed automation systems just because they resemble those used in the country of icons of freedom and democracy such as George Washington and Abraham Lincoln.


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