Campaigns/Elections

The Scanners Are Coming, but Not Quite Yet

|

Congressional leaders are delaying a planned overhaul of the nation's voting system, deciding it was overambitious given the impending, earlier-than-usual primary season. Instead of forcing states to switch from touchscreen voting machines to optical scanners in time for the 2008 election, the current version of the bill would require little add-on printers, similar to those on cash registers, to create a paper trail. Critics worry that the printers will jam, the paper will tear, and the ink will smear. But I'm not alone in preferring the ATM-style machines: Optical scan ballots also face opposition from lobbies for disabled people, which demand that they be made easier to use before they're required everywhere. The New York Times story does not explain exactly what the accessibility issue is, so it's hard to tell how readily it can be fixed. Is the problem that filling in ovals with a pen takes more manual dexterity than pressing virtual buttons? Or is it something easier to correct, like the height of the slots on the ballot scanners?

Under the new plan, the Times reports, "New York, which has delayed replacing its old lever machines, would be the only state that would have to change its entire voting system by November 2008." Given the planned abandonment of touchscreen voting, which was supposed to correct the problems associated with punch cards but provoked new worries about security and verifiability, New York's hidebound attachment to antiquated technology looks farsighted. 

Advertisement

NEXT: Friday Funnies

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. Why don’t they just have everyone in each district meet at one place, give them each one pebble, and allow everyone to put said pebble in one of several jars.

    This technique work 2500 years ago, and we won’t have to listen to the ADA’ers complain.

  2. Be thankful you don’t have preferential voting and compulsory suffrage. The electoral commission in Oz is still trying to find a way to automate the electoral process.
    BTW we have preferential voting because the constitution of Oz says every member of parliament must be elected by an absolute majority of the voters in the electorate.
    Is your system any better or worse than that?

  3. I want 6-sigma applied to voting.

    What is that? 3 errors? 6 errors? out of 1 million. I could accept that.

    I would point out that counting paper ballots or pebbles in a jar dont meet that standard. Although a theoretical pebble counting machine could.

  4. 3.4 out of 1 million.

  5. Given the planned abandonment of touchscreen voting, which was supposed to correct the problems associated with punch cards but provoked new worries about security and verifiability, New York’s hidebound attachment to antiquated technology looks farsighted.

    Uh, is “farsighted” in this context supposed to be a compliment?

    Anyway, I don’t understand why NY is being forced to abandon the old lever machines, which AFAIK never had the dangling chad issues that punch card ballots did. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

  6. I think we should privitize elections entirely by giving Diebold 100% control over voting machines and final say on vote counts. We know that private companies always do things better than the public, since they continuously strive to best serve their customers (that’s the only way to make a profit).

    If the Diebold privitization scheme doesn’t produce good results, it will be futher proof of government incompetence since they should have farmed it out to somebody else. Which means we should privitize the decision making process.

  7. Upgrading the voting system is no longer a priority since the Dems won the last election, and are likely to repeat in 08. If it ain’t broke. . .

  8. *tear*
    Goodbye wonderful teal with old-couch-cushion-type fabric curtain lever voting booths
    You will be missed 🙁

    (along with millions of tax dollars used to pay for an “upgrade,” which will probably be mandated to be changed immediately after we purchase the new machines)

  9. Dan T.,

    I’d be just as worried if some unaccountable bureaucrat had final say on the result of every vote count in the country. The problem isn’t a matter of public or private, it’s a matter of centralized or decentralized decision making.

  10. In theory, touch screens with printers have a lot going for them.

    In practice, I wonder if expecting a volunteer crew to set up all that equipment at 6 am is really so feasible. Especially if half the crew is septugenarians who are still getting used to programmable VCR’s.

  11. I say we should put Michael Ironside in charge of the scanners.

  12. Dan T.,

    I’d be just as worried if some unaccountable bureaucrat had final say on the result of every vote count in the country.

    I would be, too, but by definition a bureaucrat cannot be unaccountable. He’s part of a bureaucracy, the whole point of which is to stem corruption.

  13. I would be, too, but by definition a bureaucrat cannot be unaccountable. He’s part of a bureaucracy, the whole point of which is to stem corruption.

    LOL!
    Too funny, Dan. Too funny.

  14. ktix? | July 20, 2007, 7:16am | #
    Why don’t they just have everyone in each district meet at one place, give them each one pebble, and allow everyone to put said pebble in one of several jars.

    This technique work 2500 years ago, and we won’t have to listen to the ADA’ers complain.

    Of course, their system was that the winner of the election was kicked out of the country.

  15. Come to think of it…

  16. A Scanner Slowly?

  17. What the hell is wrong with paper ballots?

  18. DanT said, “We know that private companies always do things better than the public, since they continuously strive to best serve their customers (that’s the only way to make a profit).”

    The question is, who’s the customer? No way is it now or ever likely in the foreseeable future to be the voter. On the other hand, if every voter could choose his or her own vote collection/tabulation organization, and if those organizations were paid according to the amount of traffic they attracted, we might see more responsiveness to the needs of individual voters. But absent such an arrangement, the money will come from incumbent politicians, so privatized voting collection and tabulation will strive to please the people who sign their checks. That seems pretty straightforward.

  19. Couldn’t someone come up with a voting machine that used a touch screen and a printer. Choices would be made on the screen, and the printer would print out the ballot where voters could double check them for accuracy, and then turn in the printout ballots? Ballot choices would be clear, verifiable, and couldn’t be hacked. If they break down, just keep some old paper ballots around.

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.