Birds and Class Prep

November 04, 2003

I had two thoughts on today's walk, and because I had them near each other they must be connected. Right?

The first was that we saw some new birds in our lake today. There are always ducks and geese, and often seagulls. There are herons - both blue and great blue - and great white egrets stalking the edges regularly. Today we saw something new - a loon was swimming and diving by the near bridge. When you consider that 12 or 15 years ago that lake was completely unsafe, it is remarkable that there are enough fish to support that many fishing birds.

On our way back around the lake, we got an added bonus. One of the blue herons decided to flap over to a log in the water next to the trail. We stopped and the baby got to admire a heron. He has seen them before, but only from a distance. I like the wading birds; they have a gawky elegance.

The second morning thought was that this is election day. I did not stop and vote during the morning walk - dogs still don't have the franchise and I had the hound with me. I will vote in a few minutes - the voting station is at the end of our block. What I was reminded to do was to describe 1840s voting to the students today in class. I will ask them how many of the men rose early to vote? How many of the women chose to praise men for having voted? How many of them felt the need to stand around the voting place afterwards to watch to make sure that no unregistered voters came to pack the box, and to watch to make sure that the box did not get vanished? I will ask how many got together with friends to go vote, and how many went alone.

Voting technology has been in the news a lot lately with the push to electronic voting machines and the lack of a paper trail from those machines. If Diebold's critics are right, the new voting machines are an invitation to electoral fraud. Voter fraud is nothing new, many of the voting rituals I just described were intended to give citizens a chance to act vigilantly to preserve liberty against electoral fraud. Every time we have changed our voting technology we have changed our electoral rituals and, often, we have changed the way we distribute the franchise. The technology shapes the action: viva voce voting, paper ballots, written ballots, punch cards, levers, and now touch screens. Of them all, paper ballots were the most democratic. But, they are also a bother to count, and these days we want instant results from our elections.

And so to vote.

Posted by Red Ted at November 4, 2003 08:39 AM | TrackBack