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March 02, 2004
TOUCH-SCREEN VOTING IN MARYLAND: Bryan Preston has tried it, and he didn't like it:
The problem is, you get no paper record of how you voted. No receipt comes out, so you can't look walk away with anything in your hands that shows how or even whether you actually voted. And I couldn't see any security mechanism that would stop poll workers from casting votes for absentees when no one is around--well, other than the fact that some are supposed to be Republicans and some are supposed to be Democrats and therefore they're supposed to serve as a check on each other. But what if there is a strong third-party challenge? It's not unthinkable that the two major parties could collude and block the third party using these electronic machines and their lack of verifiable output. It's very disturbing. What if the machine misregistered my votes? I have no way of detecting error, and therefore no recourse.
What's more, here's a similar report of voting machine problems from Georgia. This is deeply disturbing.
Fortunately, there's a technological fix that can be deployed, if people are willing to do so.
Meanwhile Kevin Holtsberry is reporting from Ohio, where he predicts a Kerry win.
UPDATE: Athena Runner emails from California:
My husband and I went to vote this morning at 7 a.m. in Carlsbad, CA (San Diego County) and the new and improved *cough* electronic voting system wouldn't boot up. I went back twice and at 8 a.m., they still weren't working. Apparently it's a sporadic problem county wide.
When voter turnout is so low already, forcing people to try and come back multiple times is a huge problem. I miss my paper ballot.
Bryon Scott also emails:
At least the machines in Maryland are working. Here in San Diego the local radio stations are reporting that more than a dozen areas in the county can't even get the machines up and running.
Paper always works.
ANOTHER UPDATE: Reader Bruce Bender emails:
New voting machines were down in at my polling place in Oceanside, CA (next door to Camp Pendleton). Many people here leave for the day to work in San Diego and Orange and will either try again tonight or not vote. It is a strange feeling to be denied the chance.
Several other readers are reporting problems in various locales. You can't expect any system to work perfectly, of course, but this really doesn't seem ready for prime time.
MORE: Stephen Bainbridge reports that electronic voting (employing a different mechanism) is working fine in Los Angeles. But Maryland reader Mike McDaniel joins in dissing Maryland's system:
I can verify that the new system is wretched. Clumsy and horribly insecure. Worse, Maryland has a long and sordid history of election fraud - and these electronic systems seem tailor-made for fixed elections. What REALLY steams me is that our county had to give up perfectly good, secure, optically scanned paper ballots for this trash.
And Brendan Loy has more on California's problems. And Ann Bishop notes that it doesn't have to be bad:
We've been using touchscreen systems for years. We must sign in with multiple real people before we get that little initialed slip that we hand to the machine attendant. I'm sure his total slips must match the total votes on his machine at the end of the day. ~~Ann Bishop in Nashville
Auditability is key. I'm getting a lot of mail on this, but this is a two-class afternoon so I'm pretty busy. I'll try to pull some more stuff together tonight.