American voters are becoming extremely weary, frustrated and downright fed-up at the inefficiencies surrounding elections and their aftermath. After tremendous efforts and expense to get voters to turnout, too often elections are marred by long voter lines; malfunctioning voting equipment; erroneous voter’s lists; incompetent and poorly trained poll workers and electoral staff. Then after voters have voted, only to learn their votes were not counted, and, as is happening again in Florida, election results aren’t conclusive, requiring tedious, stressful recounting of votes.
Voting system extremely decentralized
People unacquainted with America’s voting system assume with America being a federation there’s a centralized, uniform voting system. This is definitely not so. The American voting system is extremely decentralized. Each state is responsible for its voting system.
The responsibility of elections within a state rests with its Secretary of State (SOS), an elected pollical officer. Florida’s SOS responsible for elections is a Republican. He oversees ballot design, layout and coding, smooth mailout of ballots, certification of candidates, overseeing the procurement of voting equipment, and certifying election results.
Key role of Supervisors of Election
However, the actual hand-on administration is conducted by each county and the Supervisor of Election (SOE) elected by county voters. Most importantly, the operations of each SOE, including elections held, are funded through county budgets.
The state system is also complicated by state governor’s authority to remove a SOS if he/she proves incompetent and failing in the execution of his her/duties.
The fact that the operations of SOE’s in each county is subject to the budget of the respective county is a recipe for inequities in a state’s voting system. Cash healthy counties will find have an advantage over financially challenged counties.
A primary concern in the state electoral system is that partisan secretaries of state have the power to gerrymander electoral districts, frustrate voter registration, suppress votes, while having no immediate responsibility for funding counties. It‘s therefore not unusual for there to be clashes between a Secretary of State of a particular pollical party with a county where majority of voters lean to the other party.
During the recent mid-term general elections, there were allegations in Georgia that the SOS, also the Republican candidate for governor, had suppressed voter registration and voting among some voters.
Problems plague Broward County
In Florida, Broward County, a strong enclave of Democratic voters, attract problems during and after elections. In the recent midterm, well after polls closed on November 6 votes were still being counted by the SOE. In the key races for US Senator, governor, and commissioner of agriculture, the original Republican margins of victory kept shrinking. When these margins shrank to below the legal minimum of 0.50 percent statewide recount of the votes were required.
Now, the wrath of Republican candidates and supporters are targeted at the Broward Supervisor of Elections, Dr. Brenda Snipes. This may be understandable as candidates, parties, and voters prefer elections are won clearly, and undisputed.
There are calls for Dr. Snipes to be removed, accusing her of repeated incompetence. But it’s understood in the midterm elections Dr. Snipes was challenged by difficulties in recruiting sufficient competent staff for Election Day to cope with the unusually heavy over 60 percent voting, including late arrivals of massive volumes of mail-in votes. Plus, she, unwaveringly, insisted every vote received was counted.
Despite operational problems, there’s no evidence, whatsoever, of fraud at the Broward SOE offices.
The chaos in the state’s inequitable election system was revealed in the recounting process. Palm Beach County’s SOE declared even before recounting started it would “be impossible” to recount county votes to meet November 15’s deadline since her office doesn’t haven’t enough machines. Yet, on the other hand, Miami-Dade’s SOE ordered speed counting ballot machine so her office could meet the deadline. Broward County’s recount got off to a late start because several machines had technical glitches.
It’s absurd one county found funds to order speed counting machines, while another county has insufficient machines, and another have mal-functioning machines. Something is radically wrong with Florida’s electoral system. In a word it’s a “mess.”
One of the possible fall-out of Florida’s election for governor, if the recount confirms Gillum’s loss, is that the state’s election system may not be reviewed and reformed in accordance with an election promise made by Gillum.
However, unless the system is reformed, Florida will be the butt of jokes and criticism in future elections.
Steps must be taken to protect the state election system from manipulation by partisan politics, and ensuring each county electoral system is adequately funded, and administered professionally.
Although the SOS is not directly funding counties, the office should ensure each county procure sufficient, efficient voting machines; and there’s uniformity among counties in ballot designs, in tabulating votes and reporting results.
Mid-term, and general/presidential elections are challenging undertakings. Voters shouldn’t be urged to turnout in droves when the voting system can’t cope with the volume, and votes can’t be adequately counted. The current mess of a system must be remedied.