Witt: Time to update voting methods

Published 9:28 am Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Mark Twain is alleged to have said, “When the end of the world comes, I want to be in Kentucky because everything there happens 20 years after it happens anywhere else.”

Whether or not Twain ever uttered those words, Kentucky really does seem to be behind the times in a good many areas.

Recently, an editorial in this paper discussed the failure of Kentucky to act to restore felons’ voting rights.

For many years, those leaving prison after serving their required terms have been denied a basic opportunity to re-enter the norms of society by simply having their voting rights restored. Instead, they must wait a designated period of time and then go through a lengthy process of applying for that right, and depending on the governor to make a decision in their favor. Kentucky is one of only 13 states which require these processes for the restoration of voting rights.

If felons are expected to transition back into normal society, one of the best ways to facilitate that process is to allow them to vote.

On the subject of voting, Kentucky is among the majority — in this case — where the process of voting is antiquated, archaic and arcane.
Even with new electronic voting machines, many people choose paper ballots. In some states and precincts, paper ballots are the only option.

And who can forget the “hanging chads” of the 2000 election in Florida? Now, 18 years later, Florida is once again in the news over the difficulties of accurately and expeditiously counting votes following an election.

Every time someone brings up the prospect of allowing people to vote online, the chimerical specter of voter fraud and rampant hacking are brought forward.

But look, business is being conducted every day over the internet, and with sufficient security to allow it to continue.

Millions of people pay their bills online, even to the point of allowing businesses to automatically deduct payments through that process.

Businesses routinely conduct transactions online every single day.

Millions of people have their Social Security payments automatically deposited into their bank accounts through the internet and all these activities occur with great security.

There is therefore no reason why voting could not be conducted the same way. In fact, it seems almost inevitable that someday it will be allowed universally.

Of course, for many years to come, there will be a percentage of the populace which will not vote online, either because they don’t feel sufficiently adept at doing so or just don’t trust the system, as there are those now who refuse to vote in an electronic machine, opting instead for the paper ballot because “new fangled devices” can’t be trusted.

Three-fourths of the ballots cast this year in the Arizona election were cast by mail. It would be hard to imagine a system more easily violated than voting by mail (lost, misplaced or simply destroyed). And there is nothing to assure our current methods are either secure or safe from tampering. There is even no absolute guarantee the ballots cast by today’s methods are accurately counted and little way to track the information.

It is absolutely essential this country find some way to encourage more voters to participate.

Having our government run by people who routinely garner a number of votes from a minority of those who might be eligible to vote is not a good way to promote democracy.

Online voting would probably go a long way toward encouraging people to vote.

Chuck Witt is a retired architect and a lifelong resident of Winchester. He can be reached at chuck740@bellsouth.net.