Years ago as a television reporter assigned to cover a race on election night, I would head back to the newsroom around 9 or 10 p.m. with video of either a celebration or a concession speech.
Now a reporter may as well tell a candidate, “See you in a few weeks. Give me a call when you know who won.”
It boggles the mind that many states are unable to count ballots in a reasonable amount of time, some taking weeks and months before certifying a winner. Are election officials using an abacus? What the heck takes so long?
But the solution is an easy one: let’s go back to mechanical voting machines.
The first election I ever watched on television was in 1960. A few networks and local stations had someone at a blackboard with chalk and an eraser updating the returns as they came in. About as low-tech is it gets. Back then there were two options for voting: in person or by absentee ballot. At the latest, we got all the results by the next morning. Now we have mail-in ballots, drop boxes, early voting. The more we’ve added, the more convoluted the process. And the longer it takes. By making it easier to vote, it has become harder to count.
And there’s simply too much that can go wrong with electronic machines. Along with more opportunities for fraud.
That’s not to say mechanical machines don’t have issues, or that it’s impossible to cheat. Just look back at the 1960 presidential election and the shenanigans with voting machines in Chicago.
But those machines were cool, and it felt a lot different voting that way. You had to pull a big lever after you’d chosen your candidates, and it took a little strength to do it. But when you yanked that thing all the way back, it gave you a sense of pride. Especially if you were voting against someone. You’d pull that lever and think, “There! Take that!” There’s nothing really emotional about feeding a paper ballot into a slot. It’s sort of like the feeling you got years ago slamming down a landline phone to hang up. You can’t get the same satisfaction with a cell phone.
So, let’s get back to mechanical machines. Ditch early voting. Make Election Day a national holiday so no one has an excuse not to vote. The polls will close, an election official will open the machine and the numbers were be sitting there. Count the absentee ballots, add the two totals together. Simple math you learned in first grade. Boom, you’re done. No more waiting weeks to find out who won.
But I guess that’s a bad idea. It actually makes sense.
Randy Tatano is the author of more than 20 novels, writing political thrillers under the pen name Nick Harlow, and romantic comedies as Nic Tatano. He spent 30 years working in television news as a local affiliate reporter and network field producer.
The views and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the policy or position of 1819 News. To comment, please send an email with your name and contact information to [email protected].
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