Tucson CitizenTucson Citizen

If we want a better vote tallying system, we need to pay for it

There has to be a better way. The day after the election in Arizona the election wasn’t over. There were more than 600,000 uncounted ballots Wednesday morning, including about 400,000 in Maricopa County and about 80,000 in Pima County.

That’s no way to run a democracy.

Election Day should be election day, the day we vote, the day we count the votes and the day we announce the winners.

Having more than a half-million ballots, representing about a fifth of all voters in the state, sitting around in piles being sorted, verified and tallied for a week after the election means we have a broken system that needs fixing.

But we all know that. We’ve known that since Nov. 8, 2000, the day after the disastrous election in Florida.

The Congress in 2002 appropriated about $3 billion to help the states pay for vote tabulation reforms and every county in Arizona got a piece of the action.

Yet how votes are counted still varies by county in Arizona, and in every county in the country. Some states have early voting, some states don’t. Some states have all electronic voting with no paper ballots as back ups, some have both, and some counties in New Hampshire still hand count ballots, a notoriously inaccurate and inefficient way to count votes.

But that’s not what caused the problems in Arizona. It’s partly the fault of voters getting early ballots then not mailing them in and instead taking them to a polling place on election day and early voters mailing their early ballots at the last minute so that they arrive on election day, it’s partly due to bungling by county election agencies and poll workers having bad voter lists resulting in a high number of provisional ballots and it’s partly due to voter confusion thanks to polling place consolidation changing the normal polling places for thousands of voters.

But it’s mostly due to all of us and our unwillingness to adequately pay for having all of our votes counted on election day.

The reason all of those early ballots that arrive on election day can’t be counted that night is because they have to be verified by hand, a time-consuming and cumbersome process.

So if we want an efficient and effective system that provides results on the day of the election, we either need to pay for better vote casting technology that’s safe and trusted (such as online voting), or many, many more poll workers on election day to verify late early and provisional ballots for the system we’re using now, or we need to eliminate early voting (except for the homebound, military and absentees) and make voters go to the polls.

All three options are extremely expensive.

If we choose to be cheap and keep our screwy system in Arizona, then let’s stop calling it Election Day. Election Week is more like it.

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