Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Keeping Up Appearances

It's working its way into the news that the "American Center for Voting Rights" a conservative group ostensibly aimed at reducing the rate of vote fraud in the United States has suddenly closed up shop. I first encountered the story on Slate, and it came up on NPR last week.

Interestingly, in one regard, it doesn't really matter if one side is seeking to rig elections through stuffing the ballot box, or casting votes for dead people, or if the other side is trying to make it hard for the other side's supporters to vote by erecting hurdles. Both of these lead to the same result - it's not REALLY a democracy (or a republic, depending on your point of view and semantic preference), but it LOOKS like one.

And in the end, that's what a lot of this is really all about - it removes choice from the populace, and puts it in the hands of a select subset of them, but it still looks like everyone is involved and participating (or, at least, not participating because they chose not to). And it's a pattern that you see all over the world - there are all sorts of contested elections, in which one side or the other claims that the result is invalid. Take Mexico. While their last presidential election seems to have finally faded from international headlines, it was pretty contentious for quite some time.

But I find the whole situation interesting because it speaks to importance that is placed on the appearance of fair and open elections. Regimes insist up and down that everything has been done on the up-and-up, even when evidence of rampant fraud and other dirty tricks are practically visible from Lunar orbit. And even when it's a pretty safe bet that little to nothing is going to be done about it.

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