Conservative David Frum: America’s voting system is a disgrace

Though your initial thought may be “oh the guy who wrote the ridiculous ‘Axis of Evil’ speech,” but read what Frum has to say about how the actual physical process of voting in America compares to voting in Europe (hint: our system lets politicians cheat, a lot).

As a permanent expat who has been struggling with the 2012 voting process, I have to agree with Frum on this one. The American voting system is a disgrace, and we should all be embarrassed by it.  I mean, Americans have to wait in lines for two hours, or longer, to vote, every single election – it’s a disgrace.  This morning Arianna Huffington tweeted the following, and she’s right:

If a governor can’t ensure that everybody who wants to vote can vote, the Feds should take over voting in that state.

Years ago I had a French colleague who previously worked for a large US computer firm. He was responsible for selling voting systems into eastern Europe after the fall of the Soviet Union. This equipment – both hardware and software – was leading-edge stuff at the time. He used to laugh about how much more modern and functional everything was there compared to what we had (and have) in the US. If I recall correctly, everything over there was also paid for by the US government who wanted to help bring democracy to Eastern Europe (a laudable goal).

How about bringing some of that new-fangled voting equipment back home?

Frum is on the money. This is definitely one of those articles that you want to read from start to finish.

David Frum writing in CNN:

Vote by Shutterstock.

When the polls close in most other democracies, the results are known almost instantly. Ballots are usually counted accurately and rapidly, and nobody disputes the result. Complaints of voter fraud are rare; complaints of voter suppression are rarer still.The kind of battle we are seeing in Florida — where Democrats and Republicans will go to court over whether early voting should span 14 days or eight — simply does not happen in Germany, Canada, Britain or France. The ballot uncertainty that convulsed the nation after Florida’s vote in 2000 could not happen in Mexico or Brazil.

Almost everywhere else, elections are run by impartial voting agencies….

[H]ere’s what doesn’t happen in other democracies:

Politicians of one party do not set voting schedules to favor their side and harm the other. Politicians do not move around voting places to gain advantages for themselves or to disadvantage their opponents. In fact, in almost no other country do politicians have any say in the administration of elections at all.


An American in Paris, France. BA in History & Political Science from Ohio State. Provided consulting services to US software startups, launching new business overseas that have both IPO’d and sold to well-known global software companies. Currently launching a new cloud-based startup. Full bio here.

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  • rpm3145

    Interesting that our boy Frum was the main speechwriter for Georgie Bush Jr. who started all the ‘voting process difficulties’ when they played the game to take Florida back in 2000. I would bet history would show Frum at the that time more than likely wrote speeches for Bush and his minions defending what they did to the voting process back in 2000. Frum, like the Bushies is a good Yale skull and bones man for life with his Yale brothers. Chronic hypocrisy so seemly embedded in virtually everyone who has anything to do with the GOP.

  • Papa Bear

    We tried the “leave it to the states” system when this country first started. It didn’t work. That’s why we came up with a stronger federal system.

    And there were only 13 states then. If 13 states found the system impossible, imagine what 50 states would be like!

  • Papa Bear

    works for me…

  • Papa Bear

    works for me…

  • Asterix

    “I consider it completely unimportant who in the party will vote, or
    how; but what is extraordinarily important is this—who will count the
    votes, and how.”   –Joseph Stalin, 1923, as quoted by Boris Bazhanov

  • shishkaboob

    Wait, Frum couldn’t cite a better example of voting chicanery in 2000 than Democrats (rightfully!) complaining about not having time to vote within proscribed hours because of insanely long lines in St. Louis? WHAT ABOUT HOW THE REPUBLICANS ACTIVELY STOLE THE FUCKING ELECTION IN FLORIDA?!?!? Jesus.

  • A reader in Colorado

    America couldn’t have a modern voting system.  We have the electoral college.

    Moreover our first-past-the-post two party voting system is undemocratic and practically useless as a tool for expressing the people’s true will.  Instead, most people are choosing among what are to them extremely  unpalatable alternatives, and the parties get away with a lot thereby.

    We would need a constitutional amendment to get rid of the electoral college.

    And as long as you’re making constitutional amendments about elections, why not go all out?  Federalize the elections, eliminate the electoral college, institute proportional voting.  Of course, the parties would never agree and you would need an Article V convention, but as long as you’re dreaming in the first place, I say, dream big.

    Oh, and we need an explicitly non-partisan Federal Election Service with big penalties including prison terms for partisan tomfoolery. Add that to the stack.

  • Anthony McCarthy

    There isn’t any reason the United States couldn’t vote with the system Elections Canada used, if Harper hasn’t screwed with it now.   Hand marked ballots in a clear, non-deceptive form, counted by hand.  The problem is that it’s prone to honesty.  

  • Naja pallida

    All the more reason why we should be working hard to make things equal, transparent, and fair for all.

  • Indigo

     Most other “Democracies” are much smaller and far more heterogeneous than we are.

  • Hue-Man

    Frum should not include Canada in the clean election category. Since the far-right wing Harper junta has taken over, the independence of Elections Canada has been under attack and the dirty tricks of the American voter suppression playbook have been applied across the country by the Conservative Party. The CPC has fought to the Canadian Supreme Court to overturn lower court judgments that poll workers acted inappropriately in one MP’s constituency. Six other election results are currently being contested for Conservative violations of elections law. As well, federal Conservatives had to plead guilty to violation of Canada’s federal election laws after 5 years of denying any responsibility.

    Harper has corrupted every Canadian agency and institution, including Elections Canada. Foreign observers will be required in the next election to report the extent of the election fraud in a country where elections used to be free and fair.

  • Naja pallida

    Another example of how the “leave it to the states” mentality breaks the system, and destroys the premise of equality for all.

  • Fifi

    Totally agree with Arianna Huffington : federalize the election system, at least for federal offices.

    The reason voting in Europe and most other democracies is functional, efficient, transparent and respected by all parties is not better hardware or software or what not. Interestingly, some European countries are still using single name paper ballot and envelope, the most primitive (and robust) ballot method, and have no intention to change.

    The actual reason is purely administrative. In European countries, there tends to be one set of rules for voting rolls and ballots for the whole country and only one, set at the national level. Completely transparent, uniform rules, and very stable from one election to the next. Everybody knows how the system is supposed to work and there are very few opportunities to game it.

    In the US, not the same story. Each state, county and cities set their own rules, ballot systems, etc. All different and each one of them an opportunity to mess with the voters and the votes. As they say, opportunity makes the thief.

  • mike

    This.  If it’s so bad a system of democracy, then why are the likes of Scott in FL and Husted in OH trying to prevent certain people from doing it at all?  [- he asked knowingly]

  • Naja pallida

    As much as I have rolled my eyes at and disagreed with Frum many, many times over the years, he’s one of the last non-crazies out there, making some small effort to point out hard-right insanity… but that just may be because he’s Canadian and if things get too bad here, he can just go back. :)

  • Naja pallida

    We put the rules of voting in the hands of partisans, in some cases not even elected partisans, but appointed ones. Then each partisan gets to set the agenda for his or her own little fiefdom. No two districts or states have the same rules for voting or the same opportunities to vote. We tell people that they have to register to vote, because simply existing as a citizen isn’t enough to guarantee the right to have your vote counted. We also allow parties to rearrange voting districts based on partisan ideals, instead of by population. We have an electoral college to decide the outcome of the Presidential election, because the people can’t be trusted. And no standardized ballot or voting method. The system is fundamentally broken, and has been for a long, long time. Then throw unlimited, untracked, anonymous money and for-profit companies running the voting machines into the mix and you wonder why the rest of the world thinks we are corrupt and ridiculous.

    I volunteered as an election official in another country’s federal election many years ago. I won’t say which, to prevent dating myself, but it was before electronic voting and everything went remarkably smooth. A volunteer from each party got to hand-examine each and every ballot in front of each other. Totals were double checked by another group of volunteers. No total was turned over until everybody at the table agreed on the numbers. Any questionable ballots were set aside and given to a second group to be re-examined. Granted, we have a lot more votes to count in the US… but really, that just means it should take a bit more time, but not really be any more complicated. We instead do everything we can to make it so the system can be easily corrupted.

  • Constant Comment

    Politicians of one party do not set voting schedules to favor their side
    and harm the other. Politicians do not move around voting places to
    gain advantages for themselves or to disadvantage their opponents. In
    fact, in almost no other country do politicians have any say in the
    administration of elections at all.

    I’ve been saying this for decades.

  • Drew2u
  • http://www.zazzle.com/fierylocks FieryLocks

    Conservative David Frum: America’s voting system is a disgrace.

    And you conservatives keep trying to make it worse year after year.

  • http://www.zazzle.com/fierylocks FieryLocks

    Conservative David Frum: America’s voting system is a disgrace.

    And you conservatives keep trying to make it worse year after year.

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