The security guard at the early voting precinct at the downtown library in Fort Lauderdale said the wait was two hours. It was closer to five.
The long, long wait and the long, long lines were replicated throughout the state. Early voting became our great endurance test. And a test, for those in line, for the battery life of their cell phones or their iPods.
A few would-be voters even brought along those quaint antiquated objects called books to pass the hours. Children were in tow. In the line snaking out the front door and around the side of the Holiday Park branch library in Fort Lauderdale, I saw a woman with tiny poodle, which when it finally came time to vote, she could secret in her oversized handbag – if the dog didn’t die of old age before she reached the voting booth. In dog years, the woman was in for a 28 hour wait.
The second week of this madness lent Florida the aura of a third world country, a primitive backwater new to this free election business.
It was, for a modern technological society, an insane scenario. Florida abandoned the computerized touch-screen voting machines manufactured by private companies for good enough reason. The machines were built using the Microsoft Windows platform and proved to be about as buggy and unreliable as your average home PC.
Worse, the software operating code was proprietary, secret stuff, the private property of the manufacturers. It seemed crazy that the basic mechanism of our democracy was a trade secret belonging to a private corporation.
Guess what? It still is. The computers that scan the paper ballots are wormy machines built by the very same manufacturers.
We have a paper trail, sure. But it remains utterly unclear how these giant stacks of paper will translate into more accurate electioneering. And the scanners are no more immune to tampering then the old touch-screen machines.
What we have, now, to go with the same old lack of reliability, are long lines and long waits and a tedious 20th century voting system. Voting has been reduced to the basic speed of a Number Two pencil.
We could do better. If you don’t believe this country is capable of developing a lightening quick computer system that is also reliable and tamper proof, just go to the Mardi Gras or the Hard Rock casinos. Those slot machines handle sums each night equal to the relatively piddling number of votes cast by a few million voters. And I guarantee you that the casino have made sure that the counts are accurate and the computations tamper-proof.
But if you find that you’re forced to wait four hours to play the slots, I’ll change my mind.