December 6, 2012

Andrew Sprung notes that Barack Obama’s lead in Ohio went up yesterday from 100,000 to 166,000 votes. Yes, yesterday. Yes, that’s four weeks after the election. If that movement happened to be in the other direction, it would have come awful close to flipping the state. 

And, as those of us who are following David Wasserman’s terrific reporting know, while Ohio has finally finished its count, many states haven’t. That includes Pennsylvania and Colorado, one of which will have turned out to have put Obama over the top this time.

Indeed: if Mitt Romney had done exactly 5 percent better in every state, and assuming the vote-counting went at the same pace, Romney would have been leading in the national vote and the electoral college the morning after the election, only to have Obama pass him in the electoral college sometime the next week. And one month out, we would be waiting for the possibility that Romney could still come back and win in either Pennsylvania (where Obama currently leads by 5.40 percentage points) or Colorado (5.36 points) to win the presidency.

In the days immediately following the election, we heard a fair amount of talk about improving the procedures for casting and counting votes in the United States. It shouldn’t fall off of the agenda. Nor should we forget about the importance of making voter registration easier — or, as it is in many democracies, automatic and lifelong.

Yes, unfortunately but understandably much of this is steeped in partisan politics. That’s too bad. But not all of it is, and perhaps there’s common ground for at least some reform here. At least enough so that people aren’t waiting in line for hours on election day, and the rest of us aren’t waiting weeks for the final count.

The mechanics of voting right now in the United States are a disaster waiting to happen. Everybody knows it. Barack Obama and Congress simply have no excuse for not acting now before the next very close election blows up on us all.