Hudsonblick 18

Das lange Warten auf unseren USA-Korrespondenten Charles, der unregelmäßig englischsprachige Spreeblick-Artikel schickt, hat ein Ende. Im heutigen Hudsonblick schlägt er vor, die nord-amerikanischen Bürger bezahlen zu lassen. Für ihre Wahlstimme.

How Poll Taxes Can Save Democracy

The American politician has many options for controlling the outcome of a free and fair election: stuffed ballot boxes, police intimidation, gerrymandering… He can even hope to someday simply upload the results he wants. Why let voter choice ruin a perfectly good election strategy? To a political hacker, the democratic process is a system waiting to be cracked.

One old favorite, the poll tax, often resurfaces in new guises. In its most popular form, some southern states used it to keep poor people, mostly black ones, from going to the polls. A more recent variation prevented people from voting if they had unpaid fines, with similar effect. Poll taxes like these are generally frowned upon nowadays, but I believe that the concept has unrealized potential, that it can be much more than the shallowly disguised election-rigging it“™s been in the past. I believe that the poll tax can be instrumental in saving the democratic process.

The counting and re-counting of the votes cast in Florida in the 2000 presidential race was a clear demonstration of how how politics can affect arithmetic. Since then, we“™ve had plenty of time to consider how the treatment of different factors (partially punched ballot cards, which counties were recounted, undervotes, overvotes, etc) would have affected the outcome. Part of the reason for the ambiguous vote count was the ambiguous paper ballots that were used. The not-so-brilliant solution to this has been to introduce closed-source electronic voting machines. Although this solution only permits a single, final count, which is nice, without a paper trail the count is completely un-auditable. Not such a good thing, when you consider the pure-as-the-driven-slush history of vote counts.

It“™s time to face facts: we“™re just no good at counting votes, by hand or by computer. When it comes to applying the democratic process, we as a species can“™t be trusted to make it work. The poll tax might be a solution to this. It might be a critical link between counting votes and something that we“™re actually good at: counting money.

How many ATM receipts do you have stuffed in your coat pockets? On your car floor? Littering your desk? How about bank statements? Credit card bills? Can you imagine even a single penny escaping the clutches of this electronic Alcatraz? Our current voting system leaves itself open to questions of validity and intent, but thanks to heartless bill-collectors, graying accountants, and suspicious bankers we have a money-tracking system that permits no such slack.

What I suggest is this: instead of banning the poll tax outright, make it a dollar. Or a penny. Whatever. Not enough to stop anyone from voting, but enough to make it a financial transaction. Then make each citizen pay for their vote. The machinery of commerce springs into action: money is collected, bar codes are scanned, receipts are issued, and democracy has one more satisfied customer. After the election stores close, accountants do the final tally and we check the bottom line.

I know, I know: It seems like just another naïve attempt to get money involved in politics. It wouldn“™t be the first. But maybe, just maybe, we will find that when everyone“™s vote is treated with the sanctity of buying a gumball, then everyone“™s vote will count.

How reinstating the draft can save health care.

„How victory may be produced for them out of the enemy’s own tactics–that is what the multitude cannot comprehend.“
— The Art of War, Sun Tzu

OK, maybe we“™re no good at counting money, either.

4 Kommentare

  1. 01

    Brilliant! Not to get all prosaic on you, but when I went to a training for Lawyers for Kerry in the fall of 2004, we were told that opti-scan machines were the best for counting for votes. Those are the ones where you fill in little circles with a pencil, like standardized tests in school. The technology makes it easier to count quickly then voting machines or punch-cards, and they’re easier to do a manual recount on then punch-cards because you don’t have the ambiguous-chad problem.

  2. 02

    Ah, finally, some comments from abroad!

  3. 03

    „The difference between a democracy and a dictatorship is that in a democracy you vote first and take orders later; in a dictatorship you don’t have to waste your time voting.“

    Why even bother with voting at all ? To keep up an illusion of freedom and choice, two ephemerical concepts that do not ever mean the same thing to even two guys in a pub ?
    Just flip a coin and tell us who’ll be the country’s next leader (or its next fuckup fairy), we are too busy with the bullshit life we so dearly cling to: football, booze and boobs.

    Charles, always a very dark pleasure to read your articles.

  4. 04

    Please, don’t get me started…!

    To me, the two-party system is uncomfortably close to a one-party system, especially in American winner-take-all style elections. This simplistic left/right dichotomy doesn’t help, either. The problem goes beyond the ‚excluded middle‘, it’s excluded dimensions.

    But let’s not be too hasty about dismissing boobs here… we need SOMETHING to cling to.