With Americans heading to the polls in 2012, determined to take part in homespun democracy, millions of votes may end up rejected or thrown away when election night comes – all because of the specific voting registration system.
The US is always quick to criticize the election process in other countries, as it has been since the presidential election in Russia last week.
But in a few months America will have to elect a new national leader using a 19th-century, paper-based voter registration system that has previously left the nation’s electoral rolls plagued by errors and inaccuracies.
According to David Becker, the Director of Election Initiatives for the Pew Center on the States, “About 2.2 million votes were lost in 2008 due to voter registration problems.”
A new Pew report on America’s “inaccurate, costly and inefficient voting system” also found 1.8 million deceased individuals listed as eligible US voters. Plus nearly 3 million citizens are registered in more than one state.
“We found roughly 24 million records that are no longer up-to-date, mostly because people have moved. In some cases because people have died,” David Becker says.
“We found 51 million eligible voters who aren’t on the rolls – that is one in four eligible citizens in the United States,” he adds.
For example New York state voting problems during the 2010 midterm elections resulted in a reported 60,000 votes being tossed out uncounted. Officials say the misuse of new electronic, optical-scan machines was to blame. This threatens the integrity of America’s free and fair elections.
“We should assume that every citizen that is eligible to vote, can vote. And if there’s some problem on Election Day, there should be some way that they can correct [it], so that they are not told ‘I don’t see you on the book’,” Lawrence Norden from Brennan Center for Justice in New York maintains.
“Even if you are a citizen, even if you are 18 – your vote is not going to count,” he said
Back in December, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said the same thing following Russia’s parliamentary election.
“The Russian people, like people everywhere, deserve the right to have their voices heard and their votes counted,” Hillary Clinton declared, while President Barack Obama correctly noted “It all starts with you.”
For the US, the burning issue is not whether the voting system should be upgraded to 21st-century standards, but how fast and which technological innovations should be used.
In Canada, unlike in the US, the voting system is up-to-date. And it is not only more reliable and quick to track the voting process, it is also many times cheaper. The registration process in Canada costs the budget 35 cents each vote, whereas in the American state of Oregon, for one, the price tag is 12 times that amount.
And come November 2012, American citizens will be counting on US leaders to stand by their words.