Put your memory caps on. You’re in elementary school. Let’s say, 3rd grade. In my case, Miss Johnson’s class. One of my favorites. She taught me how to multiply and divide, among other useful life skills. And that includes how to run a legitimate election.
Are you back in class with me yet? Back then, during an election year, most teachers probably put together a lesson plan or two that included information on how We the People vote for the candidates we want to lead us in our form of democracy. Sometimes that included a trip to the auditorium a few days before Election Day to see the voting booths all set up ready for our parents to come exercise their rights. Four-sided enclosures with one wall full of voting levers, two blank side panels, and a fourth side with a curtain that the occupant pulled shut to prevent anyone else from seeing his/her vote.
After this demonstration of how the grown-ups would cast their ballots, we returned to our classroom. There Miss Johnson suggested we hold our own election – for something like Room Monitor or Chief Eraser Cleaner (equally high offices at the time). Anyone wishing to run for those lofty positions had to prepare a short speech as to why he or she was qualified to be a leader of such magnitude. Only a handful of students were willing to stand up in front of everyone and speak. So, it didn’t take long to produce a small slate of candidates.
No office-seeker was allowed to say anything derogatory about any opponent. Every speech had to be of a positive nature and basically state why you were the best choice among the rivals. And you couldn’t hand out candy or extra money for lunchtime cookies to encourage possible supporters.
The voting process was simple. Everyone put their heads on their desks with eyes closed. (Miss Johnson checked.) Then, one by one, she called out a name. If you supported that particular student, you raised your hand. Still without looking, mind you. That way no one could be persuaded by others. As with the adults, it was one person, one vote, in secret.
Of course, we trusted Miss Johnson implicitly to take an accurate count of the votes. She may have had her own top choices, but it didn’t truly matter to her who actually won the right to lead us to recess or slap the erasers against the school building at the end of the day. It was the learning process she was most concerned about. But just to eliminate any doubt, she had another teacher come into the room to oversee the vote.
Once the tabulating was complete, we could all open our eyes and sit up. So as not to embarrass any second-tier candidates, Miss Johnson simply told us who the winner was. No one cried foul nor demanded a recount. And we all got a taste of the process that would transpire on the real adult Election Day.
Alas, in our electoral world of today, it seems to be de rigueur for losers to vehemently contest elections and refuse to concede. And it’s hardly the province of one political party over another to pull such a stunt. Whatever the results are of the voting on November 8th, no doubt someone somewhere is going to cry FOUL! Even with our elongated election season and sophisticated methods of capturing the votes, it doesn’t seem as if any system is foolproof.
Except the one Miss Johnson used those many years ago.
I think I may have suggested this before, but it bears repeating. With thoughts of voter irregularities uppermost in many minds, on Election Day, let’s assign all teachers to be election proctors. Everyone who wants to vote is required to show up at a local school and file into a classroom. Blindfolds will be issued to all. Voters have to sit at a desk, put heads down, and behave. Once all heads are down, the teachers will say a candidate’s name. You raise your hand if that’s whom you favor. The teachers will count the hands and move on to the next candidate. After tallying the votes, results will be handed to someone everyone trusts – let’s say, friendly firepersons – who have volunteered to observe the voting and report the tallies to the Board of Elections.
Granted, it may take a little longer to know who winners and losers are. But at least the counts will be accurate, and the choices will be genuine. In addition, perhaps we might just miss out on the madness we’ve recently become accustomed to.
©MMXXII. William J. Lewis, III – Freelance Writer