On Nov. 6, this great country re-elected Barack Obama as president of the United States of America in an unsurprising upset for former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, who is currently still trying to figure out where his tax plan math went wrong.
In addition to the re-election of Obama, America has been at the helm of many admirable things; capturing terrorists, sending humans into outer space, completing the first transcontinental railroad and, in what is maybe the most triumphant accomplishment of all, inventing the Internet. Our governing bodies have maintained an overall efficiently-run country since our Declaration of Independence in 1776 and continue to do so in a land now populated by over 300 million people of all different religious, political and sexual affiliations.
Yet, on Election Day, a day when we are told to uphold democracy and take advantage of our right to vote in the land of the free, we have to wait seven hours in obscenely long lines to do so. Yes, America has done many admirable things, but manufacturing a simple, competent and reliable voting process is not one of them.
It would be an understatement to call Election Day a mess for voters across the country. In a disgraceful display of what should have been the most capable systematic process any American will take part in, extraordinary wait times, long lines, faulty voting machines and other forms of voter suppression threatened one of the most basic expressions of democracy this country has to offer. Election Day was an embarrassing mockery of egalitarianism and American tradition that a select portion of our government uses only as a visage for their desires to make our country great again, or more accurately, make white males the supremacy.
To clarify, in 2002, Congress passed the Help America Vote Act in response to the Florida voting scandal in the 2000 presidential election. It allotted almost $4 billion to states to assist in making it easier and faster for Americans to vote on Election Day. However, there’s little evidence to support that this act has done anything to help the voting process and voter statistics from this past presidential election suggest something interesting but unfortunately not shocking.
In a Hart research study sponsored by the AFL-CIO, wait times at polls were significantly longer for Democrats and left-leaning demographics, like black voters, as compared to Republicans and white voters. This study implies accusations that conservatives might have been intentionally making it more difficult for Democrats to cast their ballots, hoping that the deterrence would push them and other liberals away to make room for a Romney victory. Though they proved to be ineffective, these actions portray a deep flaw in the way Americans view bipartisanship.
Besides the deplorable allegations of voter suppression, long lines for voters can be attributed to outdated, faulty voting equipment and the fact that we vote on a Tuesday. If you haven’t noticed, Tuesday is a weekday and as such is a work day for the majority of the American population. This leads to congregations of people lining up before and after work at the same time, backing up polling places and involuntarily extending waiting periods. Some might not be able to make it to vote at all. The history of mandatory Tuesday election days dates back to “horse and buggy” times, when officials decided it allowed time for religious worship on Sundays, after which people could make the trip to their county seats on a Monday, all to be able to vote on Tuesday, before harvest day on Wednesday. This archaic process is being inappropriately implemented on society today, but I suppose it makes too much sense to the powers that be to move Election Day to a Saturday.
In addition to the outlandishly inefficient equipment and antiquated Tuesday voting, long lines are also the result of inadequate amounts of polling places and stations set up at those polling places. With all of the public service announcements encouraging the young and old alike to go out and vote, you would think the government would set in place a national standard to deal with a large expected turnout. But in fact, there are no mandatory national standards of any kind for voting and what we’re left with is a grossly inefficient system of disorder.
We live in a country where we are told by our government that we’re fortunate enough to inhabit a first world democracy, to take advantage of that fortune and to engage in a voting process that other countries might not have. Unfortunately, the contemptuousness of this past Election Day is sure to overwhelm the luck we’re supposed to feel and will certainly be enough to discourage people from voting in the future. The ignominy of these politicians is their lethargy towards fixing a broken voting system in which they expect people to participate, because it is our duty as Americans. But it is their duty as politicians to uphold those visions of democracy by making the elementary right to vote as accessible and manageable as possible for every demographic the country represents.
Jillian Correira is a Collegian columnist. She can be reached at email@example.com.