Big Daddy

Ask Big Daddy

Dear Big Daddy,

I keep having these nightmares where I wake up in 2012 and find out George W. Bush has become our governor–and he wasn't even running. What do you think of the electronic voting machines?

–Diebold Must Die

Dear Deatherendum,

I hate to break this to you, but voting equipment has been broken for a long time. A really long time–in fact, long before there was voting.

There are a lot of issues here, but what it really comes down to is the "brain." Sometimes there's just not enough computing power to properly do the job. Other times, the power is there but the inclination to aim it toward anything important is missing. If you've ever tried to interact with some of this equipment, you'll soon realize you're better off trying to talk Nietzsche with your pocket calculator.

Then there's the fact the system often can be hacked by any shyster with a hundred grand to dump into an IE. Soft-lens a few puppies in a TV commercial and next thing you know you've got 80 percent of the electorate pulling the lever for the "Levee Improvement Ah Hell Who Are We Kidding We Want the Money for Death Squads and Lollipops Act."

How did we get into this situation? Every now and then the news media will trot out some "expert" to explain the problem. They usually blame the schools, the idea that nobody reads anymore, video games or general cultural shallowness. But you have to remember the media is trying to appeal to this same totally screwed-up voting equipment. If our equipment isn't smart enough to realize the Lindsay Lohan is completely uninteresting, how can we trust them to decide out future?

Sure, there are serious problems with the actual bits of silicon and plastic on which our votes are tallied. People have been looking for the smoking gun for years now–and when they found it, it turned out to be a bong. The residents of Berkeley rejecting medical marijuana a couple years back makes Jewish retirees for Pat Buchanan look like a real plausibility fest.

All I'm saying is that the voters we send into those booths are no picnic, either. To paraphrase a bit of computing wisdom, "Yokel in, yokel out."

The residents of Daily Kosovo like the claim the Bush team stole the 2000 and 2004 elections. Maybe they didn't, maybe they did. But no one likes to ask how they got in a position to steal it in the first place. In other words, how in the heck do we live in a society where Bush rose to a level above Wal-Mart greeter? This is the question that should cause us to take a long, hard look in the proverbial mirror.

The electorate is like a drunk–it usually quietly sits in a corner, deceptively amiable if engaged but easily angered. It's also prone to say things they don't really mean, and likely to have regrets in the morning no matter what choice they make. And something about vomiting.

Today's electorate is like a drunk in a bar with 98,000 televisions. As town hall meetings and the initiative process have taught us, a little knowledge can be a dangerous thing. And our modern communication age has made it easier than ever to acquire just that: a little bit of knowledge. These little bits of knowledge are coming at our poor voters so fast they can't make sense of them, let alone catch the contradiction of voting for both lower taxes and more services. Modern voters have to absorb more information every half second than the average Victorian even knew existed (I got that stat off the Internet), but which one would you trust to form a complete sentence?

Do I have any solutions? Kid, this column is the solution–not to our voter pool, but to your nightmares. If you want to stop having those visions of RoboBowen's faceplate coming loose moments after she assures you the machines are OK, just keep the following in mind as you head off to your slumbers–even if the voting machines aren't screwy, the results still might be.

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