February is election month in Costa Rica, and, every other year or so, a very busy time of year for the Supreme Elections Tribunal. It is to its staff and volunteers, the women and men who calmly and efficiently count Costa Rica’s votes year after year, that I dedicate today’s Boost.
Yes, I’m partly just taking a dig at the disaster in Iowa and the United States in general. Yes, Costa Rica’s a very small country – but competence is competence. U.S. voting authorities have done much worse in similar or smaller spaces. And the fact that all U.S. states handle voting differently, sometimes in head-scratchingly complex ways, is not an excuse but rather another thing we should change.
Costa Rica’s old-fashioned voting system surely has imperfections I’m not aware of, but good lord, it’s a pretty well-oiled machine. I watched open-mouthed in 2006 as the country waited out a recount on a presidential race – a race so close that a manual recount was required – for close to a month in just about total tranquility. I’ve sat in TSE press conferences as a reporter and, later, with my nose pressed to the TV as Luis Antonio Sobrado, the head magistrate, quietly announces results. I’ve watched as my husband votes: low-tech, a big cardboard divider providing privacy, marking the ballot by hand, no machines or apps to be found. In his neighborhood school, on a Sunday. With a voter ID that doesn’t change or require any hoop-jumping.
I used to think that maybe Costa Rica’s approach just wouldn’t be feasible in much bigger states or countries, but over the past 24 hours, I discovered that some of the people who know the most about technology are the leading voices for low-tech elections (take a look at this piece, for example). Maybe we should listen.
Regardless of what happens elsewhere, I’d like to thank the women and men of the TSE. And if the U.S. sends electoral observers for the next Costa Rican election, I hope they’re ready to take notes.
I’m a writer in San José, Costa Rica, on a year-long quest to share daily posts on inspiring people, places and ideas from my adopted home as a kind of tonic during a rough time in the world. Sign up (top right of this page) to receive a little dose of inspiration every weekday in your mailbox; tell a friend; check out past posts; and please connect with me on Instagram or Facebook! You can also find me churning out small, square poems on any topic under the sun (here on the site, on Instagram or Twitter).