Voting is called a preservative right, meaning it helps to preserve other rights.
The ability to exercise one's right to vote is a fundamental part of any functioning democracy. What does this ability entail? For one, those who are eligible to be able to vote should be able to do so easily. Further, once registered, voters should be able to go to the polls or mail in a ballot with relative ease as well. Finally, voters should be assured that when they cast their ballots the voting systems accurately read and record their votes. It should go without saying that each vote must be fairly and correctly counted.
Allegations of voting problems abounded in the 2000 presidential election between former Vice President Al Gore and former President George W. Bush abounded. That election, among other things, exposed problems related to punch card ballots. In the wake of that election, Congress passed in the Help America Vote Act (HAVA) in 2002. As part of HAVA states receive money to help update voting systems. California received $380 million -- no small sum.
A state audit released last week found that, under the direction of the Secretary of State's Office, millions of dollars set aside for the improvement of voting systems have been misused.
Among the state's shortcomings are lack of clear and workable standards for satisfactory voting systems, lack of transparency in the distribution of funds, and money spent on projects that were not fully implemented.
California must move -- now -- to ensure that it has put in place uniform standards. Even one more election with outdated voting machines is one election too many. The money is there; it is time to use it efficiently.