In the years since the first Bush victory, we’ve been pummeled by allegations of widespread attempts by Republicans to manipulate the voting process. In 2000, we were told that Florida’s governor Jeb Bush and his allies systematically attempted to suppress minority voting. Ohio was the posterchild for similar allegations in 2004.
As the 2006 election approached, Democratic-leaning advocacy groups repeatedly asserted that Republicans were preparing similar tricks and they promised to paper the courthouses in lawsuits for even the slightest election irregularity.
What happened to all the bluster? Where is all the breathless coverage of irregularities flowing from the 2006 elections? Where are all the complaints, the lawsuits, the demonstrations? Where are all the hard-hitting media exposés on election fraud?
Personally, I’ve always believed that what the media calls “irregularities” are simply errors and mistakes made by people who don’t do elections on a daily basis. Have you ever gotten a good look at the people working your local polling station? In my experience, the election day workforce is usually composed of large numbers of retirees and other modestly-paid part-time workers. They work the polls once or twice a year either out of a sense of patriotism or because they find it an interesting way to spend their day. Under these circumstances, there are bound to be mistakes. Workers sometimes forget how to open the machines. They don’t remember the rules. They neglect to bring a piece of equipment like an extension cord. As a result, polls don’t open on time or prospective voters are given bad information.
What I find so interesting, however, is that the same workforce and the same machines as in past elections apparently functioned pretty well this time around — so much so that complaints to the Justice Department about election irregularities were down by more than two-thirds over the past election year. There has been no flurry of lawsuits, relatively few demands for recounts, and no loud demonstrations demanding that we “count every vote.”
What a difference a Democratic victory makes.
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