A few thoughts on voting and counting and counting the voting:
(1) Nevada would be better served if we’d take a few moments to consider the age, use, maintenance, and condition of our voting equipment than if we persist in the highly questionable track of “run to ruin” accounting. “Run to ruin” is altogether too common in the public sphere — it’s a condition, initiated by under-funding or limited revenue in the first place, compounded by public unwillingness to spend “sacred taxpayer dollars,” and finally the proximate cause of expensive projects and replacements in the last instance due to deferred maintenance, or deferred replacement. Colloquially, it’s the process by which park service managers don’t replace cattle guards until the whole front end of an extended cab pickup falls through; or, a water system has pipe in the ground for 65 years without replacement; or, a county clerk hopes beyond hope he or she can get two more elections out of the voting machines in the courthouse basement. It’s what Granny called penny wise and pound foolish.
However, on some occasions there’s no way to escape it. That’s why we have three levels of government. If the local county resources won’t cover the cost of new or upgraded voting equipment, then the county looks to the state; and, if the state can’t manage the entire tab, then the federal government kicks in. If all three levels are loathe to spend any money on any government services, again it’s what Granny called penny wise and pound foolish. The cattle guards will collapse, the pipes will break, and the voting machines will crunch and crumble into their version of electronic/mechanical Valhalla.
We can, and probably should, start asking questions now (as opposed to waiting around for another two years) of our local election officials: How old are our voting machines? In what kind of shape are they in? What’s the maintenance schedule for them? Is that schedule continuous or only when the devices are hauled out every two years for use? How secure are our machines? How likely is it that the computer systems in place for local voter registration can be hacked? Do we have a coordinated plan in place to prevent interference?
Do we have enough voting machines? Do we have a sufficient number of voting machines to insure that every citizen who wishes to cast a ballot can do so in a reasonable amount of time? At a reasonable distance from his or her residence?
(2) Do we need to consider other voting formats? Some localities have mail-in ballots. This saves personnel costs in remote regions; saves time and expense for members of local law enforcement in regard to the transportation, collection, and security of voting devices, and keeps voting personnel expenses to a minimum. The system doesn’t come without some decisions, a few controversial, about the process. For example, must ballots be postmarked prior to the deadline or received by the County Clerk’s office before the voting deadline? Should the voter’s signature be clearly visible on the exterior of the envelop or should a privacy flap cover the name? (The flap system is a bit more expensive.)
(3) Are we staffing our elections adequately? One of the contentious elements in current chatter concerns how local and state election officials are handling the count of absentee, mail-in, and provisional ballots — this really shouldn’t be an issue. Every legal ballot ought to be counted in every jurisdiction in every election. The question is: Do we have the personnel to do that? Should there be a higher than expected turnout, then do we allow our local election officials enough resources to properly staff the counting process, and/or do we allow them enough time to accomplish the tasks without having to hire too many (a number that represents a policy decision) additional people for the count or recount? Are we allocating sufficient resources so that local election officials can plan for the best possible election service instead of the cheapest possible election service. Granny said, “You get what you pay for.”
Granted we may all have a tendency not to look at the tires until one of them goes flat, and not to take heed of the washing machine until there’s water on the floor, but we’d be better prepared for elections if members of the public were to take an interest in our voting systems, processes, equipment, and staffing, BEFORE election seasons hit us with the full force of the advertising on our TV screens.
And, just to re-emphasize the punctuation in the title: Have you eaten Granny?