Analysis: Primary problems!

Now it's Likud's turn to be bugged by technology.

likud primaries 248 ap (photo credit: AP)
likud primaries 248 ap
(photo credit: AP)
If it weren't so pathetic, it would be funny. Here we are living in a country that must seriously consider a military strike against a state thousands of kilometers away to prevent it from getting nuclear weapons to blow us all to smithereens - a feat on our part that would take tremendous technological skill and prowess. Yet we are unable to overcome technical glitches and assure that 50,000 people can vote smoothly. When Kadima messed up its leadership primaries back in September, and kept the polls open for an extra hour to allow those waiting outside the crowded polling places more time to vote, Kadima officials dismissed the criticism about poor organization the next morning by essentially saying, "Hey, stuff happens." The same argument was used last week when Labor was forced to postpone its primaries by two days because of a breakdown in a state-of-the-art computer system that was supposed to make voting much easier, quicker and more efficient. And the same line will most likely be used on Tuesday by Likud representatives who will be forced to explain to the public why thousands of people stood in the cold for hours outside polling places, like so many Soviet citizens waiting during the Brezhnev years for the rare fresh fruits and vegetables outside a Moscow "supermarket." True, mistakes happen. They happen once, even twice. But when the same mistake happens a third time, it's time to get worried. How difficult is it to conduct a primary? We're not talking here about enormous numbers. It's not as if this was the Democratic primary in Pennsylvania where millions of people went to the polls. Some 40,000 people voted in the Kadima elections, about 35,000 in Labor's primaries, and maybe 50,000 in the Likud ones. The most troubling aspect of Monday's mess-up is that the Likud, after seeing what happened in the Labor primary last week, should have been prepared. It should have drawn conclusions, maybe had some manual ballots printed up and stored out back just in case. It's called learning from mistakes. That the Likud was woefully unprepared for possible technological hitches shows some of our less-than-adorable national characteristics. First of all, there is an over-reliance on bells and whistles, an obsession with the technological upgrade. Manual ballots have served man fairly effectively since the time of Thomas Jefferson; there is no need to move to an unproven computer system just because it's available. Newer and niftier does not always mean better. Secondly, we have no patience. The headlong rush to change the old manual ballot for the computer was motivated, it seems, by a need to get instant results - to know who won within the hour, something that would have been the case had any of those computer systems actually worked. But why the rush? So we would have known the results at midnight instead of at 2 a.m. Would that really have made a difference? Could the nation not have controlled its curiosity for another two hours? How many people were really going to stay up until midnight waiting for the results anyway? And finally - and the most troubling - Monday's foul-up shows a great deal of arrogance. Only the arrogant would look at a computer-system collapse that completely messed up a similar election last week and say to themselves, "No, that can't happen to me; it won't happen to me; I don't need to prepare differently; everything will be okay." It can happen, it will happen, there is a tremendous need to prepare and - sans preparation and contingency plans - everything will not be okay. Life is not a Bob Marley song ("Don't worry about a thing, 'cause every little thing gonna be all right.") If the country takes those lessons away from what has turned into a sorry primary season, then all the aggravation already caused by these elections will not have been in vain.