Friday, June 09, 2006

Final Thoughts on the Election

Well, the election is almost over here. They're still manually counting ballots today, but just a few. Turns out, those few make a difference, but only in the sense that the candidates and their staffs are a bit uncertain. It's not like we would actually have a new mayor today if they resolved things--he won't take office until next year, regardless.

This was the thing that bothered me about the 2000 presidential election. They had the time to do it right, yet the Supreme Court just stepped in and said to stop counting and declared a winner.

The basic rule of elections is, you count all the votes. Duh.

I know; old news.

And an update on our election technology, from the same S.F. Chronicle article:
On Thursday, the Alameda County Board of Supervisors voted to purchase new voting equipment in time for the Nov. 7 election to avoid a repeat of Tuesday night's marathon 15-hour manual vote count.

Sequoia Voting Systems Inc. of Oakland will provide 1,000 optical scanners and 1,000 touch-screen voting computers for each of the county's 830 polling places at a cost of $13.5 million.
So, a couple of things here:

One, what's so bad about taking 15 hours to count votes? What's the rush? Take your time and do it right. I know it's exciting to see who wins, but what are we sacrificing to get the instant gratification? Count all the votes. Count them right. Count them again, if you have to.

Two, this is a lot of money to spend on machines we don't use very often. Yes, they are important, but really, $13.5M could do a lot for the county. And this is basically for a glorified version of the old Scantrons we used to use in high school. Hmmmm.

The good news out of all this is that we apparently learned a bit by getting burned on the last batch of machines. They're written conditions into the contract that they have to have hackers test the machines, and of course, there has to be a verifiable paper trail. So this is at least better than the last go-'round, but it still strikes me that we're rushing to do something that doesn't really need to be done.

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