Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Election: Back to the Future

One other note about today's election: My county will be the one holding up the statewide results, because we've had to scrap our electronic voting machines that don't meet the (really minimal) state and federal standards. And apparently we couldn't even scrounge enough manual machines:
The outcome of the Democratic governor's race and other contests could be up in the air until poll workers in Alameda County, where nearly 6 percent of the state's Democratic voters live, count ballots by hand.

Alameda County mothballed its new electronic voting machines because they failed to meet federal and state standards. But it was unable to obtain enough optical scanning machines to count the ballots even after borrowing 60 machines from San Diego County.
Great. Now, I'm a tech guy, but I also believe that we shouldn't just blindly hand over the keys to the democracy to untested, unverifiable technology. When we used the electronic system in Alameda County, there was no physical evidence at all that I had voted (notwithstanding the little "I Voted" sticker they give you) other than the fact that I'd signed the register. And you have to sign before you vote, so even that isn't proof. And no way to tell what I had voted for, either. Just had to take their word for it.

That just doesn't cut it. In a democracy, nothing matters more than voting. All the other rights, like free speech and press, basically exist so that we can have free and fair elections. Just having to trust the vote counters (or more to the point, the vendors who set up the vote-counting machines) is not democracy.

I'd be fine with manual ballot counts. Heck, I'd even volunteer to help out. I think we can do better than that, but the current set of electronic machines isn't better. It's nice to be modern. It's nice to be fast. But it's far, far more important to be accurate and to have people actually believe the results of the count.

So today we've taken a step backward, technologically. But as far as I'm concerned, it's a huge step forward democratically. And as much as I like technology, I care a whole lot more about democracy.

1 comment:

thepoetryman said...

"So today we've taken a step backward, technologically. But as far as I'm concerned, it's a huge step forward democratically. And as much as I like technology, I care a whole lot more about democracy."

Amen to that! amen!