At one time or another, many of us have stood in an hours-long line of would-be voters awaiting a chance to cast a ballot in a major election, and offered to the skies the plaintiff promise that “If I were in charge, things would be different.”
The same promise has escaped more than on one set of lips when a diametrically oppposite situation has occurred — a visit to a polling place where bored poll workers have nothing to do because there are no voters coming to cast a ballot.
Now, state Rep. Mark Hamilton has an opportunity to do what many have wished they could — be a part of revamping Georgia’s election process.
Hamilton is one of 16 people appointed by Secretary of State Brian Kemp to study the process of voting in Georgia from top to bottom with an eye on reforming the system.
Their task will not be an easy one. While many complain about the process on those sporadic occasions when elections roll around, there are potential pitfalls and problems that must be considered before enacting sweeping changes.
Here are some areas we’d like to see addressed by the election study committee:
Make voting easier. The opportunity for early voting in recent years has proven to be hugely successful, but more needs to be done to eliminate the mad rush that can occur at a major election. Weekend voting? Online voting? What’s the answer?
Take advantage of technology. With all the technical wizardry available today, there have to be ways to avoid the verification processes that tend to stall the lines on election day. By the same token, the compilation of results and announcement of winners shouldn’t have to drag into the wee hours of the morning, no matter how many votes are cast.
Maintain integrity. The pitfall of relying too heavily on technology is the potential for mischief by those who know how to manipulate electronic systems. Voters have to be sure the electoral system is secure.
Consider flexibility in polling places. One of the great inefficiences in the current system is that the same number of polling places have to be open for an election expected to draw minimal interest as is required for a general election of major interest. If only 10 percent of the state’s voters are likely to make the trip to the polls for a runoff, allow counties to open fewer polling places to handle them.
We need to make it so easy for Georgians to vote that they can’t find excuses for not doing so. Maybe then we won’t have candidates elected who garner support from only 5 percent of registered voters, or tax issues decided by ridiculously low numbers of people.
Unfortunately, there is only so much any such effort at streamlining elections can do to make things better. At some point, it’s up to the people to be involved, and the sad fact is that far too many potential voters are simply too apathetic to let their voices be heard at the polls, though they are more than willing to complain about the decisions made by those who do take the time to cast their ballots.
Voting is a sacred privilege which we so take for granted as to demean its importance, and therein is an embrassment too great for the efforts of any study committee.