It’s not a happy situation when a problem’s solution creates a new problem that is equal or greater than the original problem. In Elementary school civics, I learned that the Secret Ballot was developed to solve the problem of political bosses ability to tell people how to vote, and punish people who voted against their candidates. I was about 10 or 12, and I bought the idea – if someone was buying votes, you could take their money, go into the voting booth and vote against them, and nobody would ever know the difference.
Later, I learned that the secret ballot had its own weakness – it depended on the honesty of the folks who count the ballots. Before the secret ballot, everyone knew how I voted. It made it harder to rig the election with a fake count. I’m pretty sure that Stalin didn’t say “Those who cast the votes decide nothing. Those who count the votes decide everything.” But it’s a solid description of a problem resulting from the secret ballot.
Easy absentee voting removes my need for a ten-mile round trip to vote – it’s a solution to that problem. Still, in the past 6 months, we’ve seen two fubars here in the north end of Lincoln County. The first fubar was the loss, misplacement, whatever of a box full of ballots that were left, lost, abandoned, whatever, in Eureka instead of being delivered to Libby for the count. I use the term fubar – the official news release included the descriptor “impeccable” and pardoned the error with the thought that his heart was in the right place. The obvious question is whether or not the hiring process is stringent enough. A less obvious question is whether or not the county functions to provide fair and competent services – Koocanusa did a good job of cutting the middle from the county.
The most recent problem with absentee voting was two-fold. First unsolicited absentee ballots were sent out to protect folks from disease. Second, a simple blunder included two districts in the mailing that didn’t include eligible voters. The initial response to my question about it was credited to the election administrator and reads “All I can tell you is that their address is in both the Eureka School District 13 and the Trego district 53. They can legally vote for District 13.”
The official release, when the blunder was recognized, is a bit different – but, hell, I was there to bring the problem in the open.
I didn’t bother looking at the possibility of fraudulent counts being enhanced by loose absentee ballot controls. Jimmy Carter already made that determination – and I did cast my secret ballot for him back in 1976. Still like the man – though I thought that only Buchanan kept him from being the worst president ever. But that was back in the 20th century – in the 21st both Carter and Buchanan have had some stiff competition.