There's a relatively famous scene from the 1986 movie Crocodile Dundee in which Mick Dundee and love interest Sue are threatened by a mugger with a small switchblade. They have the following exchange:
Sue: Mick, give him your wallet.Listening to the petty claims of fraud tossed around in the wake of Bush's Ohio victory -- We had to wait in line! We were intimidated! -- and comparing them to the scandals surrounding other elections around the world, I feel like Mick Dundee looking at that tiny switchblade.
Mick: What for?
Sue: He's got a knife.
Mick (brandishing a massive machete): That's not a knife. This is a knife.
In Ukraine, opposition candidate Viktor Yushchenko was poisoned by his opponent, but stayed in the race. After his supporters rallied in the streets for days on end, he won a re-vote held because of massive fraud, including government thugs storming the polling places.
Armed thugs also made an appearance in the recent election of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, when Fatah gunmen invaded a polling station, shooting their rifles into the air and saying their relatives were denied a vote.
In Iraq, enemies of democracy are murdering Iraqi citizens in a wave of bombings and assassinations, hoping to derail elections altogether. The U.S. is deploying 35,000 troops in Baghdad to protect voters as they head to the polls on January 30.
And in a recent development in a story from last March, it now seems that Taiwan's President Chen Shui-bian faked the assassination attempt on himself and running-mate Annette Lu on the eve of the election there, to gain sympathy votes.
American elections can and must be improved. They need to run more smoothly and inspire more confidence in the results, not least because irregularities and inconveniences provide fertile ground for conspiracy theorists. But after looking at what people around the world endure to participate in the democratic process -- and remembering that millions of others still can't -- waiting in line a few hours to vote doesn't seem so bad.