Voting Problems Have Some Rethinking Our Election Systems

By Bruce Leshan | WUSA9

WASHINGTON, D.C. (WUSA) -- As Americans, we like to think of ourselves as exceptional. And when it comes to our voting systems, we are. Exceptionally bad.

In almost every other democracy -- even Third World democracies -- you get the results almost instantly. An independent national agency usually counts the ballots quickly and accurately with few allegations of fraud or voter suppression.

So why can't we do that?

"This is the longest line that I've ever seen," complained one voter in Dumfries on Tuesday night, and all across America on Election Day, voters felt the system failed them.

"I got up early this morning to cast my ballot," said an Ohio voter. "And now they're telling me my vote doesn't count."

In New Jersey, in the wake of the superstorm, the state let voters cast ballots by electronically, by email, by fax -- there were some problems.

But even in the former Soviet republic of Estonia, on-line voting is now the norm. "The technology is getting smarter, the security is getting better," Andrew Rasiej, founder of Personal Democracy Media told C/NET

Not that it's perfect. If a bank makes a mistake on line, it puts the money back in your account, C/NET's chief political correspondent Declan McCullough says. "If an election is hacked, we really don't have a way to do it over."

Even the tradition of Tuesday voting dates back to the days when Americans had to get to the polls on horseback. Tuesday avoided the Sabbath -- and market day.

Many democracies now have an election day holiday.

Spreading voting out over days or weeks might ease those lines.

Some states now allow everyone to vote by mail -- but the fact that DC, the 50 states, and thousands of counties, all have different machines and different rules only contributes to the confusion. "Our electoral administration system is a scandal," Jeremy Mayer of George Mason University says. "It's an obscenity. We should be embarrassed before the world that Americans waited four hours to vote. That doesn't happen in Canada. That doesn't happen in Australia."

Other countries may have voting scandals -- but nothing like the hanging chads of the 2000 election -- and of course, they're still counting the votes in Florida on Wednesday.

Part of the problem is money. Experts say we're just not spending enough to ensure efficient elections.

And the conspiracy theorists say that may be just the way some politicians want it. Wealthy people may be able to afford to wait in line for hours to vote -- for poor people, giving up a days wages may just convince them to skip the polling place.