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Voting Technology, Political Institutions, Legal Institutions and Civil Society: A Study of the Hypothesis of Cultural Lag in Reverse

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The 2000 Presidential election was plagued by butterfly ballots and 'pregnant chads'. Electronic voting systems, lacking verifiable paper trails that are subject to possible fraud, promise to wreak havoc with the 2004 Presidential election. There is a great diversity of systems of voting technology in the 50 states: from paper ballots, lever-operated machines and punch cards to optical scanners and electronic systems. Associated with each technology is an estimated error rate. The underlying theory of this paper was set forth by William F. Ogburn in his famous book entitled Social Change, published in 1922. Dividing culture into material and non-material elements, Ogburn argued that non-material elements lag behind material elements. His explanation for this lag is that technology, which underlies material culture, changes at a faster rate than elements of non-material culture. Obgurn did not contemplate the possibility of a reverse lag, viz., technology lagging behind non-material culture. In analyzing the anomalous relationships between voting technology, political institutions and legal institutions, a striking instance of a 'reverse cultural lag' is discerned. To eliminate the phenomenon of the reverse cultural lag, there is a need for a federally-funded program of a uniform, state-of-the-art voting technology, plus an amended Help America Vote Act, to implement the innovations in the 3,114 counties. The complex problems reviewed in this paper point to a vexing question: how do we educate an electorate in a democratic society--such as the United States in the twenty-first century--to be responsible for ensuring that periodically-elected representatives implement the will of the people?
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Keywords: 2000 Presidential Election; Butterfly Ballots; Ogburn's Theory of Cultural Lag; Pregnant Chads; Reverse Theory of Cultural Lag; Voting Technology Systems

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 2004-06-01

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