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Albert Einstein said the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result. By that standard, the way we conduct elections could be regarded as certifiable.

As feared, Gallatin County voting ended up stretching late into the night, with reports of long lines and some outlying polling places running out of ballots. An unexpected surge in voters slowed down same-day registration and voting and – once again – made the county one of the last to report results.

In fairness to Gallatin County’s election officials, similar or worse problems were reported in other states. At this point, Florida surely qualifies as an electoral disaster area, with results delayed for days. If the presidential election had hinged on results from that state, we would have seen a repeat of the 2000 election.

The plague of voting snafus has some pundits calling for the nationalization of the electoral process, with polling conducted by non-partisan professionals. They point out that – in the developed world – the United States stands alone in giving responsibility for elections to locally elected, partisan people with little or no experience running elections.

But what doesn’t make the news are the many places where voting went smoothly. Everyone who wanted to got a chance to vote, and their results were reported in timely fashion. It wouldn’t take a rocket scientist to duplicate what happens in those states and counties.

This much seems simple: Estimate how many voters are expected to show up at the polls to vote and get registered. Then double it. Provide for twice as many polling places, ballots and election volunteers as are expected to be needed. That will minimize or eliminate waiting throughout all but the busiest hours of Election Day.

County commissioners, who set the budget for the elections clerk, will grumble at that suggestion. But there are some things that are just too important to scrimp on. If even one voter gives up in frustration and relinquishes his or her right to vote because of long lines, that’s one voter too many.

The 2012 general election is history. But will we see a repeat of similar problems in two or four years?

That would seal the deal for Einstein.


Editorial Board

  • Mark Dobie, publisher
  • Michael Wright, managing editor
  • Bill Wilke, opinion page editor
  • Richard Broome, community member
  • Renee Gavin, community member
  • Charles Rinker, community member
  • Will Swearingen, community member
  • Angie Wasia, community member

To send feedback on editorials, either leave a comment on the page below or write to citydesk@dailychronicle.com.

Support Local Journalism

To see what else is happening in Gallatin County subscribe to the online paper.


Editorial Board

  • Mark Dobie, publisher
  • Michael Wright, managing editor
  • Bill Wilke, opinion page editor
  • Richard Broome, community member
  • Renee Gavin, community member
  • Will Swearingen, community member
  • Angie Wasia, community member

To send feedback on editorials, write to citydesk@dailychronicle.com.