Voting, Done Properly
Let me tell you my experience of voting in the Eighties, in Italy.
Background: Catholic Countries have no problems with voting on a Sunday. Communists were strong. They would go to vote. As a result, the others went, too. There was strong mistrust in the other side. Blessedly, there were no computers involved.
This is how I remember them.
First: you need to haul your ass to the polling places. There are people who are nonagenarian, or centenarian. There are people who physically die whilst on the ballot box. There are people coming in in gips, on wheelchairs, on stretchers! If you don’t want to go to vote, you don’t deserve to live in a democracy. If you cannot vote, tough luck. The integrity of the process comes first. There might have been some slight exception (I never asked how they vote in hospitals), but they were scarce, if any.
You walked to vote on a normally sunny Sunday morning, normally in June. The voting place is a local school or public building. Little queue, as there is one voting section every few hundred voters. After the couple minutes of waiting, which you use to greet your friends, if any there, look at the girls, and read the instructions, you enter the (class)room (where only authorised people can enter, so you are invited to get in) and show the president of the section (with two aides on the side) the certificate that was sent to you at home and your valid proof of identity. The voter rolls are scrupulously kept. There are, in the room, party observers: one per party (only the big parties are generally interested) and section. They are recognisable from the obligatory arm band with the symbol of their party.
The president of the voting section notes your ID, in the presence of the aides. He retires and files your certificates and gives you the physical polls and a special, indelible pencil. You get in your boots and stand there in complete privacy. You vote according to instructions you have just read.
You go back to the president and give him your folded, color-coded paper ballots. He (not you) puts them in the relevant ballot boxes. You return the pencil. He says “buona giornata”, you say “anche a Lei” ( but it’s not unlikely that you know him; then “ciao” will do).
The Army stands in every school where the vote takes place. They are very visible, because they want to be seen. A handful of people, five or six if I remember correctly. They have beds. Of course, they have firearms.
On Sunday evening, IIRC at 8 PM or 10 PM, the section closes, but the vote will go on on the Monday until 2PM. The rooms with the ballots are sealed, doors and windows. The President signs the seals. The army will guard all the rooms, from the inside and the outside of the school or polling place, during the night.
The following morning, fairly early, the voting commission is there again. In the presence of the army guy, the President of the section certifies the integrity of the seals (doors and windows) and brakes them.
The voting resumes, allowing those who work on a Sunday, or had to visit the in-laws, or had other reasons, to vote on the Monday morning. On the (generally slower, hence, no queue at all) Monday morning, everything goes as the day before.
At 2pm, the polling place (say, the school) closes. Of course, those still in the line can complete operations.
At this point, a very complex procedure begins. Every citizen can assist to the count, but the party representatives are the ones authorised to physically stay near the president of the section, look at the ballot and talk to (or quarrel with) him as the president calls the votes aloud, singularly, and his aides record them manually. Contested votes are, not without the usual, emotional Italian discussions, set apart as “contested votes” but counted in (means: if the president says this is a vote for the Democrazia Cristiana, it is *provisionally* counted for them but set apart). Discussions can be long and tiresome (the pencil sign cannot go out of the relevant box; at times it is very feeble, etc). Everything is read aloud and showed: vulgar expressions (very few), jokes (some), salami slices, an Italian symbol for “corruption” (some). If anyone gets violent or disruptive, or keeps harassing the president without accepting his (provisional) decision, the president, who has the power of arrest, can order the army to have the disrupter arrested and removed on the spot. Make no mistake, there will be a criminal record, possibly jail time.
All this is done manually, by hand, and called in the presence of the public and the party representatives. The numbers are counted and recounted, manually, with frequent tallies during the day. They are called, in the presence of everyone. All the ballots are kept religiously filed by voting issue, and with the contested ones separated from the rest.
When the vote counting has ended, the ballots and all documentation are put in sealed boxes. The transport part starts. At least one member of the voting commission, plus the army, *plus any party representative who so asks* (and they always do!) enter the transport vehicle (s) and remains in the physical presence of the sealed boxes, so that there is confidence that no one has tampered with them during the transport phase.
The ballots are transported to vote gathering centres. There, they will be kept, the vote counted and tallied to other sections coming from all over town, and there will be a special second examination of the contested ballots, an “appeal” so to speak, with the same procedure as before.
Everything is handled scrupulously. Every single ballot, voting certificate, ID documentation is kept for any check or recount that should be ordered.
No software, no machines, no levers, no algorithms. No one claiming he is too stupid to make a cross on a paper ballot. No one too lazy to go to vote.
Democracy does not come to you. You go to it, and thank God you have it.
This is how it worked. It worked well.
I think it’s how it should be.