November 1, 2012

Editorial: Voting must be easy task


---- — Sometimes, following the letter of the law means that the handwriting is on the wall for someone. When it comes to as fundamental a function as voting, governments should direct their efforts to making everything as easy as possible for citizens, as they concentrate as well on making sure everything is done correctly and fairly.

We’ve just been told about a voting ordeal one of our readers in Florida was obliged to endure, and it makes you wonder why somebody hadn’t foreseen problems such as this and headed them off.

Our reader and her husband had arranged to vote early in Florida. As it turns out, it’s probably a good thing, because, if her experience is any indicator, Election Day will be quite the mess.

They showed up at their polling place on Tuesday morning, Oct. 30, to find a line so long it snaked outside the building and around it. But at least voting is a quick and easy process, so the line should shrink rapidly, right? Not exactly.

The method of voting was identical to the one employed hereabouts: a paper ballot that must be filled out and fed into an electronic reader.

The line traversed several rooms, each with a different function: one housed an ID check; in another, the ballots were handed out; in a third, the ballots were actually filled out.

Our reader was very shortly chagrined at how little movement seemed to be taking place. They were standing in line for agonizingly long minutes without advancing.

Eventually, it became obvious why: Through no one’s fault, 11 propositions and an amendment were on the ballot. That’s government.

But some fault lay with the voters themselves, most of whom were entirely unfamiliar with the issues and had to read through page after page of explanation of the propositions and amendment. The lesson here is to get to know your ballot and what’s on it before joining the crowd at the polls.

At long last — three hours later — our reader and her husband had dispensed their duty and completed voting. But this was Florida: Most of the voters in line were aged; some were infirm. What kind of toll did this responsibility exact from their personal health?

Some, upon completing their ballot, had to repair it because they had failed to keep their pencil marks within the little ovals on the paper, making it impossible for the reader to do its job.

Such exigencies must be anticipated and remedies applied.

Nowhere should people be inhibited from voting because it’s too difficult physically. We hear complaints about the ordeal presented by certain polling places in this area. The Plattsburgh State Field House comes to mind; though it is handicap-accessible, it is a considerable walk from the parking lot (even the handicap spots) into the building. Some senior citizens have told us they no longer vote because of that challenge.

Enabling every citizen who wants to vote to be given the opportunity should be the first priority for every election district in America.