THE BLOG

Election Shocker: Chicago Voters Denied Rights

10/23/2012 03:11 pm ET | Updated Dec 23, 2012
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The Chicago voting process has been corrupted and the damage is irreparable.

In my salad days in Chicago, elections were not the protracted, excruciating affairs they have become. The process was streamlined, causing hardly a ripple in the lives of ordinary Chicagoans.

The expense of campaigning for office was a pittance relative to the millions spent today on even local races. Back then, campaign literature was almost always of a light green hue, bore the picture of George Washington, and would likely have led someone from outside Cook County to conclude that every candidate in every race was running for a seat on the Federal Reserve.

Though decades before one could vote by mail, in the 1950's more than half the voting was absentee. This was particularly important to voters whose jobs precluded them from going to the polls, such as those who labored 24 hours a day pushing up daisies.

An especially heartening aspect of the process was the number of Chicagoans who volunteered their time to assure there would be no irregularities at the polls. Though likely a coincidence, many of these selfless citizens were employed by city aldermen, who were willing to absorb the strain of operating their offices at half -- or even no -- staff.

The importance of the volunteers cannot be overstated. In particular, their familiarity with the quirks of Chicago's antiquated voting machines enabled confused voters to do what they had come to do.

Most likely due to the disuse of certain switches on the machines, those who did not vote straight tickets were often unable to pull the lever that both registered their votes and drew back the privacy curtain, freeing them to exit the voting booth. In such circumstances, poll workers were instructed to wait 15 minutes before violating the voter's privacy, irrespective of screams emanating from the booth.

Typically, the volunteers were able to remedy the problem in a matter of a few seconds, entering the voting booth, toggling a few switches, administering CPR to the voter, and pinning a "Straight Is Great" button on his lapel.

It is impossible to catalogue here the myriad benefits that flowed from Chicago's approach to insuring the precious right of every citizen to have his voice heard. Families were freed to spend quality time together because there was no need to huddle around a television set awaiting election results. Poll workers returned to their day jobs finding envelopes on their desks reading, "Nice going, fella." And chiseling the names of city officials in marble on the bumpers marking their personal parking spaces became a hallowed tradition.

Sadly, it seems that "the Chicago way" is gone forever. Today's politicians have forsaken George Washington, the Father of our country, for Ben Franklin, a man who looks terrible on a light green background.

Though freedom is priceless, the price of pricelessness has definitely suffered from inflation.