November 2, 2004

Election day  

Lots of controversy this morning over registration and voter fraud. And what struck me most as I voted this morning was the incredible fragility of it all. There's nothing, save civic responsibility, to stop someone from abusing the system, whether by intimidating voters, impersonating someone else, or registering elsewhere and voting twice. There was of course no check of identification at my Oak Park firehouse, and the poll workers were about as unsophisticated as can be. This in the same county famous for the slogan "Vote early, vote often."

Yet we still choose our government this way, and there's probably no other way to do it. American democracy is a balancing act between the will of the majority and the rights of the minority, and the voting process, which is the embodiment of the majority's will, cannot work unless the rights of the minority are protected. This means, among other things, a secret ballot; and because of this necessary privacy, it's inappropriate to employ the kind of strong enforcement techniques -- carefully checked lists, unique identifiers, or even a requirement that every citizen vote -- that might seem like intuitive solutions to the casual observer. I find it both astonishing and inspiring that voting manages to work anyway.


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