Vote ’06

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(HOST)Election day is just around the corner, and commentator Bill Seamans has been thinking about just how important it is to vote.

(SEAMANS) The midterm elections are just six days away. It is now “kitchen table decision time” when those who haven’t yet made up their minds will sit down and make their final choice.This election weighs extra heavily on the American public because of the war in Iraq and Afghanistan. Whatever the political reasons for voting many also regard going to the polls as a moral obligation that we owe those now in harm’s way. Our eighteen and nineteen year olds should be particularly anxious to vote to honor those their own age serving in the armed forces during a war. I would suggest that we elders tactfully remind our teenagers that their vote is their greatest privilege as citizens of a free society and that they owe it to their peer group fighting and dying overseas.

It has been our conviction that our form of democracy is the most powerful example for the rest of the world but that is no longer true. It’s painfully regrettable that too many American citizens cannot be guaranteed that they can walk into a voting booth with the certainty that their ballot will be counted accurately – if at all.

Beyond the negative campaign that the Mudfellas have imposed on us there is the specter of voter suppression and outright deliberate disenfranchisement. Some states with close contests and less savory electoral histories are said to be considering asking voters for proof of citizenship and a photo I.D. which poor minorities, the ill and the disabled and the shut-in elderly are less likely to have.

But the new electronic touch-screen voting machines appear to be the most widespread problem – especially those that don’t produce a paper trail as a check on the mechanical tally. There is so much confusion and suspicion of possible fraud that, as George Will said, “days, perhaps weeks might pass” before we know who controls the House and Senate. It appears, then, that we might see a post-election vote verification battle even more deplorable than the Florida experience that elected President Bush.

With the control of Congress and a historic change in the direction of our domestic and foreign policies at stake it is obvious that we need, but don’t have, the highest electoral standards. Perhaps this election, if it is as chaotic as expected, will create a new public demand for a standard national election system using the same voting method and machines that produce an irrefutable paper record of the ballot.

As for getting out the vote, I recall an old political saying that gets truer with age – that bad politicians are sent to Washington by good people who don’t vote.

Bill Seamans is a former correspondent and bureau chief for ABC News in the Middle East.

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