Practicing the Democracy We Preach

By Ottaway, Marina | The Christian Science Monitor, November 29, 2000 | Go to article overview

Practicing the Democracy We Preach


Ottaway, Marina, The Christian Science Monitor


The problems and uncertainties surrounding the outcome of the United States presidential election provide a reminder that the US would benefit from reviewing the lessons on democracy it has been teaching to other countries: Good techniques are very important, but democracy also depends on the political will to make it work.

Since the fall of the Berlin Wall, the US has been engaged in a determined effort to promote democracy worldwide. It now spends more than $600 million a year on democracy assistance.

One of the most successful aspects of democracy promotion has been electoral assistance. With US government funds, organizations such as the International Foundation for Electoral Systems have perfected techniques to help democratizing countries improve the fairness and credibility of their election processes. As a result, voter registration, the management of polling stations, and the securing and counting of ballots have improved dramatically in many countries.

Technical solutions do not eliminate all problems. Governments and political parties determined to manipulate election outcomes will always find a way. But, while there is no easy technical fix for deep-seated political problems, good technical processes help convince voters that fairness is not impossible and that cheating will be detected.

Unfortunately, the US does not always practice at home what it preaches overseas. American voters have discovered in the past three weeks that American elections can be rather sloppy.

Many of the technical and political problems common in the US would be denounced if they took place elsewhere.

American citizens often cast their ballots without showing voter- registration cards or other identification papers, but the US government spends millions of dollars to help other countries issue photo voter-registration cards.

After the vote, US election officials handle ballots so casually that two days after the elections, an absent-minded clerk can discover a forgotten bag of ballots in the clutter of his car trunk.

Most surprising of all, not all election officials have mastered the art of producing ballots that are understandable to voters. Yet, these are all simple tasks, part of the ABCs of elections we teach to other countries.

We should not be so complacent. These elections have shown that even a well-established democratic system needs good technical safeguards.

With such safeguards, American voters would still be split down the middle in terms of their preferences, but they could at least feel confident that the vote has been counted correctly.

They can't feel confident now, and not only about Florida. Submitted to the same close scrutiny, other states would probably also be found wanting. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Practicing the Democracy We Preach
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.