Thursday, November 09, 2006

We ought to go back to paper

Voting machine
Originally uploaded by khasan.
When I first voted here in Portsmouth, I was surprised at the ballot: an 8-1/2 by 11 piece of paper and a stubby felt tip pen to fill in the bubble circle to cast a vote.

I thought it was the dark ages.

I now realize somebody in City Hall has some smarts. Let us hope we never get rid of paper and pen. I saw the completed ballot of a neighbor as he went to put the paper in the ballot scanner doo-hickey; he'd circled the name of his preference for Senator. Perhaps his vote didn't get picked up the first time through, but there's no question as to who he cast his vote for, even if he didn't follow directions (and, he is a very senior citizen who, likely never had to suffer through bubble-tests as a young student).

He never would have handled the new-fangled electronic voting machines... and his vote might never have been actually recorded.

Look south to Florida to see another debacle.
The touch-screen voting machines Katherine Harris championed as secretary of state after the 2000 presidential recount may have botched this year's election to replace her in the U.S. House, and it's likely going to mean another Florida recount.

More than 18,000 Sarasota County voters who marked other races didn't have a vote register in the House race, a rate much higher than the rest of the district, elections results show.

Florida Secretary of State Sue Cobb sent a team to Sarasota County on Thursday to observe the expected recount and audit the county's touch-screen voting machines.
Of course, they will not find anything. Unlike my neighbor, who's undercount would be counted in a hand tally, these 18,000 voters don't get the chance.
To do a manual recount for touch-screens, officials go back over the images of the electronic ballots where the machine didn't register a choice. But state rules essentially say that if the machine doesn't show that a voter chose a candidate, the voter is assumed to have meant to skip the race — it would be tough to prove otherwise.
Bring back the paper, baby, bring back the paper.

Kudos to Deloris M. Overton, the Registrar in the City of Portsmouth, and her staff for keeping things simple and running a truly effective and inclusive election... And making decisions which ensure we'll never have the eyes of the nation on us, an election hanging in the balance because of poorjudgmentt.

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