We don’t quite measure up to Venezuela, the Republic of Georgia, Serbia, El Salvador, or Namibia either, according to international observers:
The observers said they had less access to polls than in Kazakhstan, that the electronic voting had fewer fail-safes than in Venezuela, that the ballots were not so simple as in the Republic of Georgia and that no other country had such a complex national election system.
“To be honest, monitoring elections in Serbia a few months ago was much simpler,” said Konrad Olszewski, an election observer stationed in Miami by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe.
“They have one national election law and use the paper ballots I really prefer over any other system,” Olszewski said.
“Unlike almost every other country in the world, there is not one national election today,” said Gould, who has been involved in 90 election missions in 70 countries. “The decentralized system means that rules vary widely county by county, so there are actually more than 13,000 elections today.”
Variations in local election law not only make it difficult for election monitors to generalize on a national basis, but also prohibit the observers from entering polling stations at all in some states and counties. Such laws mean that no election observers from the organization are in Ohio, a swing state fraught with battles over voter intimidation and other polling issues.
As for electronic voting, Gould said he preferred Venezuela’s system to the calculator-sized touchpads in Miami.
“Each electronic vote in Venezuela also produces a ticket that voters then drop into a ballot box,” Gould said. “Unlike fully electronic systems, this gives a backup that can be used to counter claims of massive fraud.”
The United States is also nearly unique in lacking a unified voter registration system or national identity card, Gould said, adding that he would ideally require U.S. voters to dip a finger in an ink bowl or have a cuticle stained black after voting.
“In El Salvador, Namibia and so many other elections, the ink was extremely important in preventing challenges to multiple voting,” Gould said. “In Afghanistan it didn’t work so well, because they used the dipping ink for the cuticles, so it wiped right off.”
To observe elections in Florida, Gould and his partner first stopped to meet state election officials in Tallahassee.
Their visit to Miami included failed attempts to witness election preparations at two polling stations on Monday evening. After a two-hour drive through heavy traffic, the observers found both polling stations deserted.
“In Venezuela we drove around to all the polling stations ahead of time to make sure this didn’t happen,” Gould said. “Here we consider studying the system more important than looking at actual voting.”
And of course, members of the two major parties reacted to the observers…. uh, differently.
“The United States has long been a model for the world,” said Richard Williams, a poll watcher officially designated by the Democratic party. “If we allow international observers, we will continue to have a leading role.”
Not everyone agrees. Jeff Miller, a Republican congressman from Florida, considers the monitors an insult and has publicly urged them to leave. “Get on the next plane out of the United States to go monitor an election somewhere else, like Afghanistan,” he said