“And Iran, Iran so far away…” – A Flock of Seagulls, 1982
If it hasn’t happened already, I imagine some wingnut on some website somewhere is likely to make the comparison between the recent Hoboken mayoral contest and the murky election fallout in Iran. But if you were to use any common sense you’d see that analogy is absurdly far-fetched, considering intelligence reports have Hoboken’s nuclear program posing little to no threat to the international community. Hell, we can’t even get a movie theater off the ground, let alone a long-range ballistic missile. Rumblings from the IAEA that we may be enriching uranium behind the locked gates of Sybil’s Cave have been staunchly denied, but you should never underestimate the capabilities of a few rogue Stevens Tech undergrads with a downloaded Anarchist Cookbook.
Nevertheless, let’s face it – the Hoboken mayoral election was a bit cloudy. And watching events in Iran only days later, it rang somewhat hollow to hear our leadership speak of the “subversion of democracy” in regards to record turnout in a nation of 66 million when a tiny little enclave on the west bank of the Hudson can’t even get its act together to efficiently count 12,215 votes. And the fault for these discrepancies lies not with the candidates — their job after all is to get as many votes as possible. My furrowed brow of disbelief is fixed firmly upon those whose job it is to count the votes.
The 2000 U.S. Presidential Election cast an enormous spotlight on the flaws of our voting systems, and while “the fate of the free world” hung in the balance, Americans squabbled over bureaucracy, interpretation, and the now infamous hanging chad. Yet nearly a decade later, we still can’t seem to get it right.
For example, let’s say I work for the Hudson County Board of Elections. My job is to conduct and oversee elections in Hudson County. Daunting as that may be, it shouldn’t be too difficult. People vote, I count the votes, I add them up and determine who received more votes. My job is relatively simple. So why would I make it any more difficult?
Why, for instance, would I simply “misplace” 79 votes by leaving them under a desk in my office overnight? That’s the kind of Mickey-Mouse unprofessionalism that would get a high school teacher fired for tampering with a student council election (see Election, 1999 – starring Matthew Broderick and Reese Witherspoon). Furthermore, as an official in charge of an election, why would I cast a pall on the process by grabbing a drink on election night at a campaign event held by one of the candidates? I’m in Hoboken after all, if I needed a drink that badly I could have gone to any of the other dozen bars within a one-block radius of City Hall.
With Hoboken and Hudson County so blatantly rife with corruption, it’s no longer a surprise to hear such anecdotes of incompetence. Yet these events corrode the democratic process from the inside out, as eventually most people shrug and say, “Eh, whattayagonnado?” That’s not democracy; that’s apathy. Democracy in its pure form is so terribly fragile, and to blindly entrust its safety to the clumsy, knuckle-dragging oafs of bureaucracy is downright negligent. But why should I get so bent out of shape? After all, it’s just an election – the most fundamental tenet of the democratic process.
The biggest difference between Hoboken and Iran is that Hoboken has already grown numb to the process. The reason Iranians, many of whom waited on line for hours to vote, are so fervent in their protest is that they haven’t been worn down by the system… yet.
Christopher M. Halleron, freelance writer/bitter bartender, writes a biweekly humor column for The Midweek Reporter in Hudson County. He spends a lot of his time either in front of or behind the bar in Hoboken, New Jersey where his tolerance for liquor grows stronger as his tolerance for society is eroded on a daily basis. Feel free to drop him a line at email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org.