Voting in November

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(Host) Will the coming election results reliably reflect the votes of millions of Americans using a mix of voting systems? Commentator Ruth Page is hopeful but somewhat doubtful.

(Page) Is the November election in a few weeks likely to be as earth-shaking in its results as many believe? It does have greater potential to change Americans’ lives in basic ways than most; the Lincoln, Wilson, and FDR contests all had profound implications for the country, and this one seems similarly vital.

Just three examples: the next President may appoint from three to five members to the Supreme Court; as has been shown, they’ll have enormous influence over the conservative and liberal tug-of-war taking place in the U.S. right now. New members will be considerably younger than the incumbents and thus be on the Court for many years to come.

Then there’s the environmental disagreement. Is it OK to damage the country’s dwindling natural resources, such as forests and deserts and plains and high mountains, that support both our spirits and the wealth of plant and animal life we’re so proud of, in order to reduce the country’s need to import oil and gas for power?

Need we cut back clean air, clean water and clean earth in order to keep major companies economically powerful, so they can provide more power, and ever more raw materials for development and manufacturing?

These and other serious decisions depend on whomever we elect to Congress and the Presidency, and they’re not simple. There are arguments for both sides of each challenge, and compromises will surely be needed.

OK. So that means the most vital concern should be that every vote is honored and tallied correctly. Therein lies the rub. Every current news medium tells us how iffy the many new kinds of voting machines can be. The most thorough — and frightening — article I’ve read was in Scientific American. Careful analysis shows every method, including old-fashioned paper ballots, can produce serious errors in itself, and far more if subject to conscienceless people wishing to influence the outcome.

I learned this lesson many years ago. Back in the 50s there was one precinct in Burlington, Vermont, where we saw a number of people plied with drink and taken to the polling place by the party that supplied the liquor and told the tipsy how to vote. Poll workers required at the polls that if someone needed help in voting, one person from each party should be with him or her in the booth. More than once we saw just two pairs of feet behind the curtain.

Most people are honest and trustworthy, but we all have to fear the few in ANY party who would tamper with the basis of true democracy.

This is Ruth Page in Shelburne, concerned that every vote should be counted in November.

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