The Wenatchee World

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Elections as swift as the mail

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This morning I checked in at the state’s elections website, a favorite of late. It is a very nifty and rapid means of transmitting large amounts of information. You can see tabulated results from every race, from every county. There are maps, and if your cursor hovers over a county it will pop open and tell you how many people voted for what. They even have an election results iPhone app. Sadly, you cannot digitize what is not yet known. You cannot record votes uncounted. We feed these fanciful 21st century clouds of data with a communications system developed in the 18th century — an envelope containing a hand-written message, collected and carried from point to point and hand delivered to the addressee. Our election tabulations are only as swift as the U.S. Postal Service. And as a result, with all our technological prowess and abilities to analyze and move indescribably large amounts of data in milliseconds, we count votes more slowly than the ancient age when election board ladies with rubber thumb caps and ledgers did their tabulations in school gyms and church basements, their results collected by telephone and transmitted by teletype operators and newspaper wire services to the world awaiting the news before retiring on election night.

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