Since the U.S. Supreme Court decided that George W. Bush would be President of the United States, everyone has been talking about voting but, as with the weather, no one has done much. Voting is said to be fundamental to our nation, but until the 2000 elections we didn't seem to understand how rickety our election process is.
We know that in our federal system voting is administered by states, each one having different systems of casting and counting votes. But it goes deeper, as we saw in November and December. Voting is actually administered by counties (3000 nationwide), and takes place at precincts (several hundred thousand) where it is administered by Volunteer-Managers-for-a-Day (more than a million all told). The differences we saw in Florida between how votes are cast, counted, and miscounted by voters and officials in different precincts -- let alone different counties -- are not news. They can never be eliminated entirely but in the past they have been tolerated far too much.
Small wonder that in such a system ascertaining the will of the people would not be easy even if everyone were pulling for an honest deal and a fair count and if we all shared the same vision of what that meant. But of course we don't. Therefore, working to improve our election system requires two focuses: (1) streamlining the system across-the-board, and (2) making the system fair to all voters and segments of voters.
The federal government has a wide role to play in all this. Its power derives from several sources, some of which are: (1) power to enforce constitutional guarantees, especially equal protection and due process; (2) plenary power over federal elections; and (3) ability to spend money and offer money to states on certain conditions. The responsibility belongs to the executive branch directly, as well as in seeking legislation, and in litigating before the judiciary.