Wednesday, November 07, 2012

A broken democracy

Its election day in America - and as usual we are seeing pictures of long queues to vote. Early voters in Florida were forced to wait for seven hours to exercise their democratic rights. In other places, the wait is a mere four hours. And as this account makes clear, polling stations are understaffed, have broken and run-down equipment, and have no requirement for disabled access.

This is not the way democracy works in civilised countries. You don't have to queue to vote in New Zealand. You don't have to work out for yourself where the ballot box is in Germany. You don't have to rely on the kindness of strangers to access the polling place to cast your vote if you're disabled in Australia. These are all signs that America's democracy - the one it prides itself on labelling "the greatest in the world" - is fundamentally broken and run-down.

And those reports make it clear why: the right to vote is in the hands of politicians, who limit it in an effort to prevent their opponents from winning. Again, you don't see this happening in any civilised country either. Neither do you see outright voter suppression, or robocalls trying to scare people away from the polls or telling them about "telephone voting" to convince them they have already voted. America is alone in the civilised world in this. As for reports of voting machines flipping votes from one candidate to another, or politicians ordering secret, last-minute updates to the software, they belong in Russia, not in a democracy.

Every election, we see the same pictures and hear the same stories. Every election, politicians promise to fix it. And every election, they do nothing. America's democracy is broken,a disgrace, and it needs to change.

(As for the results, the polls clearly say Obama, but the level of suppression and dodginess is so high that I no longer trust the results of American elections to reflect the will of the people. When one of the major electronic voting machine companies (which will be counting the votes in a crucial state) is in bed with one of the candidates, then the integrity of the vote is in doubt).