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Brought to you by those people in Palm Beach County, FL who were confused by the ballots.

Every news website known to man has been showing pictures of these things. What exactly was so damn confusing? There were arrows pointing to the right hole to punch for crying out loud! Do we need those ballots like they give little kids with the picture of the candidate that you're supposed to circle? If you make the effort to vote, which few people do, don't you think it's worth the time and thought involved to figure out how the ballot works before you punch it?

I think that we need to create some standards for people who vote in this country.

I'm not talking about literacy tests designed to exclude the underprivileged and undereducated. I'm talking about a few simple questions that anyone who is over the age of 18 in the developed world should know.

What celestial body is the center of our Solar System?

I read once that a random sample of people were questioned. 30% of them didn't know that the Sun was the center of the solar system. This is the kind of stuff I'm talking about.

What state do you live in?

If someone can't answer this question, then obviously they shouldn't be casting votes to decide who that state endorses as president of the United States, now should they?

At the present time in American politics, what are the two largest political parties?

Ooh, now we're getting tricky here. A potential voter should be able to pronounce a three-syllable word AND a four-syllable one. *gasp*

And last, but not least...

What is today's date?

This one should have a little leeway, but if you're off by more than a month, you obviously don't have the grasp of reality that one should have when choosing the future leader of the free world.

This test should be given verbally, or perhaps as kind of a "pre-ballot." If the voter cannot figure out which hole to punch on the pre-ballot, maybe that will keep them from voting for the wrong candidate.

Erynn: GOP propoganda? From the liberal media? That's a joke and a half.
And people shouldn't be in a hurry when voting. That is my point in this writeup. Not that people in Palm Beach County are morons, but that people should think this kind of stuff through.

wharfinger: Unfortunately, the United States is not a company. The United States is a country. The goal of a country is not to be profitable.
As a Palm Beach County, FL resident with a reasonably high intellect (yes, I know the futility of trying to justify this statement, and I'm not going there), I can personally say the ballots were confusing. Yes, I double-checked mine, but it was also only the second time I've ever voted in a presidental election (i.e., I was WORRIED about screwing up anyway), and unlike many voters, I was not in a hurry.

As soon as I arrived at work after voting, people around me were already discussing the ballots. I work at a newspaper, and the calls from people worried about the ballots started Tuesday morning and have not stopped since. When I got an early look at the numbers, one of the first things I did was node Palm Beach County's Screwed Up Ballots.

Forget for a moment whether or not this actually has anything to do with "intellect". Forget for a moment that we're not living in some fantasy world run solely by evil geniuses who never make simple mistakes. Forget the inherent silliness of assuming that Palm Beach County has a higher percentage of morons than anywhere else. Let go of the desire to focus on the easy target this provides. The fact is that our local supervisor of elections re-designed the ballots in some weird, half-assed way that is in violation of two or three Florida voting statutes. When you hear the GOP propaganda that "These ballots were used in blah blah blah other states/counties", they are talking about the STYLE of ballot, not the moronic, possibly illegal layout of presidential candidates that is - pay attention now - inconsistent with the instructions that were distributed with the sample ballot.

For an interesting statistical analysis of just how badly this skewed the voting, see http://madison.hss.cmu.edu/.

Small response to psydereal's response: The "liberal media" is actually not that pervasive in Florida; the paper I work for is definitely somewhat liberal, but we are surrounded by the Sun Sentinel to the south, and the Orlando Sentinel to the north, both of which are conservative Tribune papers, both of which officially endorsed Bush.

Update: So, let me get this straight:

If Democratic voters make a simple mistake on a confusing ballot, they're morons.

If the military postal service somehow forgets to postmark a bunch of absentee ballots, it's due to "time constraints".

Sure, makes perfect sense to me.

Psydereal forgot the traditional means of limiting the franchise: Literacy tests and property requirements. Those two methods of keeping the "wrong people" from voting were very popular in the American South for decades (and somewhat farther back, the rest of the country as well -- don't start getting too proud of yourselves, ye Northerners). That's all behind us now, and I don't get the impression that very many Southerners would care to turn back the clock -- but if Psydereal has a real problem with the Civil War Amendments, that's the place to start.

Incidentally, at the ferociously capitalistic free-marketroid software startup where I work, we have a very different philosophy about user interfaces than Psydereal has: If it's not clear to every user who sees it, we fucked up. But we're funny that way. We don't mind taking responsibility for our own fuckups.

By the way, we're profitable. Coincidence, I'm sure.

The points made by these noders are valid: the ballot did violate more than one - two, in fact - guidelines in state law; many people were in a hurry when they cast their vote; the sample ballot was inconsistent with the final; and those responsible (the government?) should have corrected these mistakes.

However, all of these facts are irrelevant. This idea that morons shouldn't vote has nothing to do with the government or its faults. It is a belief that people should take responsibility for their own mistakes. They should not blame technicalities and imaginary evils for their carlessness, and they should concede their errors while learning from them.

While the ballot did violate some regulations, it was still within the realm of understanding. An average fourth grader could've made his/her choice with nary an error. This wasn't some mind-boggling riddle. It didn't require deep thought, heavy analyzation, knowledge of The Calculus, or omniscient wisdom. The fact of the matter is: if you paid attention, you couldn't have made the mistake that so many did.

I, too, live in West Palm, and while many agree that the ballot could've (and should've) been simpler, I've heard no one claim it to have been downright confusing.

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