Ed Driscoll

PA Voting Machine Meltdown?

I voted an hour ago in my California suburb, and once we got past a brief glitch where they listed as inactive, despite having voted in 2004, things went perfectly smoothly. The electronic voting machine was simple and easy to use, and generated a paper receipt stored in the machine as well, in case its CPU crashes.

But a Hugh Hewitt reader is reporting very different results from the electronic voting machines in Pennsylvania.

In a separate post, Hugh writes, “Rick Santorum is going to have to pay for many lawyers”; the Election Law blog currently has an “Orange” alert for the chances of election litigation nationwide.

Update: Whoops–guess I spoke too soon about how smoothly things were running in California–I blame Haliburton. Or Diebold. Or maybe Kinko’s.

Related: Over at Tech Central Station today, Glenn Reynolds reminds us “Why We Should Worry More About Vote Fraud”:

As I write this, nobody knows how the elections will turn out. That hasn’t stopped some preemptive claims of fraud, though:

Pelosi cautioned that the number of Democratic House victories could be higher or lower and said her greatest concern is over the integrity of the count — from the reliability of electronic voting machines to her worries that Republicans will try to manipulate the outcome.

“That is the only variable in this,” Pelosi said. “Will we have an honest count?”

Hmm. I thought there was also the variable of how the voters decide to vote on Tuesday. Pelosi seems to regard that as a foregone conclusion, though the polls have been wrong before.

But this sort of talk — destructive and self-serving as it is — merely underscores a point I’ve made before: An election system that is less than transparent is one that’s open to conspiracy theories and fear of fraud, whether or not fraud is actually present. And I’ve heard quite a few other Democrats echoing Pelosi — and quite a few Republicans speculating that a Democratic Congress will ride in on a wave of votes from dead people and illegal immigrants. That sort of thinking seems much more common among respectable members of both parties than it was a few years ago, and I think there’s reason to fear it’s getting worse.

For four years now, Prof. Reynolds has been a vocal proponent of paper ballots over electronic voting machines, and here’s yet another vote in their favor: ripped paper’s a lot cheaper to replace when a frustrated voter blows a gasket and takes it out on the voting booth:

In Pennsylvania, a would-be voter was arrested at a polling place in Allentown, where election workers said he smashed an electronic voting machine with a paperweight.

Authorities didn’t know what caused the outburst. “He came in here very peaceably and showed his ID, then he got on the machine and just snapped,” volunteer Gladys Pezoldt told The Morning Call of Allentown.

The machine’s screen was damaged and it was not immediately clear if votes recorded on the machine could be retrieved. Police said the man faced charges of felony criminal mischief and tampering with voting machines.

Or as my wife just said to me, “Great–we have ‘going postal’, ‘road rage’, and now ‘touchscreen rage'”.

On The Other Hand: Paper has its flaws too, of course.