Tuesday, September 12, 2006

A simulacrum of democracy

Voters in Maryland are pissed. On the day of the primary elections, scads of problems have been reported throughout the state. Many precincts opened late. At one polling station in Baltimore, the Republican election judge had not shown up until after 9:30, a hour and half after polls were supposed to open. Other judges, in all cases, Republicans, didn't even show up. Some polls opened three hours late. Across the city, people arriviing to vote in the morning were greeted by locked doors.

In Montgomery county, the so-called "smart cards" were not shipped and no machine can run without them. Stories have appeared in both The Washington Post and The Baltimore Sun describing levels of incompetence that are simply beyond belief (as might be expected, WaPo completely downplays the widespread problems in the most heavily populated districts). Poll workers, completely untrained on the new equipment, could not even turn the machines on. In places, provisional ballots couldn't be issued because polls didn't enough, or any. Other voters arrived at the polls, only to be informed that they had already voted. At Western High School, the actual voting machines didn't arrive until 11:00 am and when they did get there, no one had the keys. (Check out WTOP's webiste for a bevy of complaints from voters.)

With voters demanding extended hours to make up for the late opening of polls, the election board in Baltimore City refused the request, but a Democratic Party challenge filed in Baltimore Circuit Court resulted in the judge ordering the polls to remain open until 9:00pm.

This is beyond ridiculous. Every election since HAVA has gotten worse, not better. Baudrillard was right. This is not democracy. It is a simulacrum of democracy. Though Baudrillard usually was referring to a much larger context, it is applicable to the smaller context not just of the "choice" of candidates, but to the elections themselves. This exercise we submit ourselves to is not meant to actually present choices but to simply pretend that it does. The selection process, too, is now so ludicrously run, no one trusts it. The clowns responsible for these election day debacles could care less whether people get to vote or not (just read some of those comments). If we were serious about elections in this country, the electoral process would be a well-organised endevour of openness and transparency. Is such seriousness apparent to anyone?


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