Diebold, Die!

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I voted for the first time in at least four years (and possibly for the first time since 2000). In Oxford, Ohio, on an electronic machine created by Diebold, the bete noire of all manner of voting conspiracists (as I said in reason's presidential poll, I tapped the screen for one Bob Barr). This was my first time with such an apparatus—I grew up in New Jersey, where we voted on steampunk-clanky mechanical machines involving flipped switches and pulled levers and all sorts of weirdly old-fashioned seeming stuff. There was something comforting about having to exert yourself to cast a ballot, though it seemed kind of implausible that anyone was really tabulating whatever the hell was on the inside of the machine (indeed, in the Garden State and New York, stories would always come out weeks after a given election of whole tractor trailers filled with voting machines simply disappearing).

The Diebold electronic screen was not comforting in the least, though it seemed easy and transparent enough to use. There was a paper tape that you could read as the vote was tabulated, etc.

As we wait for the polls to close and the results to come in, I'm curious if Hit & Run readers care much about the technology of voting. And what interesting (or like mine, uninteresting) experiences did you have today? 

AP story on machines not malfunctioning, big turnout, and the like.

NEXT: Kind of a Comforting Thought on Election Night...

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  1. I drove down to the firehall, waited in line for 90 seconds, and tapped the part of the screen that said Bob Barr.

    What I don’t get is, why don’t electronic votes get counted instantaneously? This waiting-all-night business is for the birds.

  2. Left a mark-n-scan system on the wrong side of the river to come to an all-electronic-no-paper-trail-machine on the right side.

    ::sigh::

  3. Not sure what machines they use here in Tennessee. I was not astute enough to look at the type of machine I was using when I went in for early voting. It was easy enough to use but felt a little clunky. It seemed to have a bit of a delay between the press of my finger and showing up on the screen. Other than that all went well. Got my vote in for Barr, then proceeded to vote against incumbents for either a straight 3rd party ticket or in one case I just wrote my name in. The candidate running had no one running against them.

  4. In college back in the early 1970s, one of my poli sci profs described pulling the lever on a voting machine as “that great ejaculation of power.”

  5. Scantron ballots in Massachusetts. It’s all good.

    I like the big, clunky machines, too.

  6. As a standardized testing savant I prefer the optical scan ballots.As an antiquarian I wish I could vote on a lever machine.

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  8. Clearly the dark, well oiled Republican election stealing machine is working its evil magic as we speak. Stay on your guard!

    My vote was cast with pen and paper, via US Postal Service (boo!)–absentee ballot, as my employer is hosting me in another state today.

  9. assuming the USPS managed to deliver it to the local election board, that is.

  10. Looking forward to McCain getting spanked by Barr’s margin, but my Intrade position in Indiana.REP is doing quite well right now.

  11. I didn’t notice the name of the machines being used here in Jersey City today. I pressed a button, a light went on next to Barr’s name, then I pressed another button to confirm the vote.

    The woman in front of me had trouble figuring out how to use the machine. And the two women working got into an argument over whether or not they could reset it if a person didn’t use the machine correctly. Ultimately, one of the women did push some buttons.

    “You’re going to screw up the count!!”

    “What else are we going do? She didn’t do it right?!!”

    More buttons were pushed, more arguing.

  12. Today in Manhattan I voted on one of those big clunky machines that Nick is talking about with the red lever. I have always voted on one of these things, as I grew up in New Jersey. I was in the 30th District, and as the ancient geezers did the paperwork to allow me to vote they talked to each other about how the “public count” was not the same as “the machine count,” as if they were trying to figure out a way to fix it.

    I voted, and then my wife. While she voted I listened to the poll workers at the 31st District table, right next to our 30th District table. They were having the same sort of conversation as the people at the 30th; trying to figure out which votes had got lost, or which had got counted more than once.

  13. Frankly, I’m still surprised people in Las Vegas are willing to put money into animated computer screens that spit up cards in Video Poker, or fruits and bells in computer slots. You’d think they’d be concerned that it would be much easier to rig a computer to never give you a win than to rig a mechanical device. But in fact people put their money into these things with high levels of confidence. So I’m not surprised they don’t worry about fake computer voting.

  14. I worked the polls today in Arlington, Virginia, where voters have a choice between a machine or an optical scan paper ballot. 17% of voters chose the paper ballot; the rest went with the machine.

    (Virginia’s Legislature has barred any further purchase of electronic machines due to the hackability risk; they will be phased out as they wear out over time.)

  15. My university town uses a scantron (fill in the bubble) system.

    As a relative youngin’, this is my favorite way to vote. Every single standardized test I’ve ever used was a scantron, so the “make sure to fully fill in the circle” lecture is second nature after 24 years.

  16. I voted in Brooklyn (also for the first time since 2004, and also for Barr–third parties FTW! [I don’t really like Barr, but what the hell]). We’re still using the same steampunk machines from like 1950.

  17. PS. The district booth next to mine, another steampunk machine, was seemingly out-of-service while I was standing on line at my machine. But then some guy cranked a lever and it came back on. Then some voter tripped over the electrical cable of my machine, and it turned “off”. I was wondering if the votes would get lost?

  18. This was my first time voting in the new state, so I had to present all the ID and stuff. Strangely, there was a poll worker escorting everybody from the queue to their Diebold machine and explaining how it worked. She did this for every person in the line in front of me, but when it was my turn she just pointed to the machine I was supposed to go to.

    I’m not sure if I looked really smart or really scary. The Cthulhu shirt I was wearing probably didn’t help.

  19. Admit it guys, you just like the idea of going into a dark little room behind a curtain and yanking a lever.

  20. you just like the idea of going into a dark little room behind a curtain and yanking a lever

    It has a certain visceral appeal, yes.

  21. I had to hang around (as chairman of inspectors in an election district) for 2 hrs. here in New York City because our machine was one of many around the city whose keys had not been packed in the supplies sent to the polling place. Eventually someone came & jimmied it open for us to do the unofficial canvas, which the Bd. of Elecs. insists on. The official canvas doesn’t get started until 8 days later anyway.

  22. jimmied it open for us

    I derive a certain satisfaction out of my state’s one-day-only, last-century voting process. I really don’t get the move to “early voting”. Doesn’t that just mean all states are eventually going to agitate for an amendment to move the “real” voting date back? Kinda like the primaries.

  23. Denver, CO — The longest ballot ever, on the largest of ballots ever. Two 18-by-36, double-sided heavyweight paper sheets. Connect the arrow with a pencil, stuff them into a metal box.

  24. What’s all this with voting machines anyway? In the UK we just put an X in a box on a bit of paper.

  25. Hart E-slates; no touch screen though many still hammer it with their forefingers after about 5 yrs using ’em in Texas. It’s got a little wheel you spin to highlight your choices and an enter key to lock it in. Shows a summary page at the end of the ballot so you can think twice before hitting ‘cast ballot’ and locking your choice into the onboard memory and the control box cache. No network link to a central counting station; poll workers carry the control boxes with their sealed memory modules back to the counting station where the cards are stripped out and tallied. There’s a lot of concern over hacking networked systems, so we carry the bits and pieces here and there. Want to steal an election, forget about stuffing the box, just get your man on the contractor tech team prior to election day, he’ll be worth his weight in gold. ‘Provisional’ ballots are an abortion that could only be dreamt up in HAVA-land, where every improvement creates multiple confusing forms and procedures at the polls, absolutely insane to let ‘unregistered, unable to id themselves, out of district and incompetent fools state they did register, they do live here, and we have to let ’em vote, even if just provisionally.

    Haven’t used a mechanical fraud machine since the ’90s but they’re warmly remembered in my antiquarian brain.

  26. Heh…at one ED (i.e. someone else’s machine) at my polling site, the public counter was said to be off by 9 (I don’t know whether more, or less) compared to the count on the cards made out by hand for each voter and the number hand written in the book at the same time. Our ED wound up with a discrepancy of only 1, the public counter on our machine having the lower number of 436. I “fixed” that.

    I was also hiding under the table the box of cookies given by some candidate for assembly (or maybe it was senate). They were fresh & excellent. A couple of boxes must’ve been detected and were instead put on a table at the entranceway — still with the candidate’s name on them and within 100′ of the polls.

    What’s really galling about making us stay 2 hrs. after the polls closed at 9 PM (and we’d been working since half an hour before opening at 6 AM) because of that packing error (which apparently was widespread) was that we phoned in about the problem at 8 AM, and the rumor flew for hours that the police keys were being duplicated for an 8 PM delivery, is that the canvas on election night is strictly for show — unofficial. The official tally doesn’t even get started until Wed. of the following week. I wanted to fix it just by making canvas sheets of whole cloth, if you’ll pardon the pun.

    And they get so chickenshit about other things too. On the affidavit ballots (provisionals for people who think they’re registered to vote there even though they’re not in the book) I’d been witnessing their sworn or affirmed statement on the envelope after they’d made out the ballot and sealed it in the envelope. Then I was told we had to have them swear to it before giving them the ballot. That resulted in my doing so for one lady who then thought about it and decided, concerned about the secrecy of her vote when the envelope was opened, to forego voting. We’d also been told not to destroy any documents, so the solution I was then told to do was to void the statement on the envelope (which contained no ballot), seal it and put it with the others, which added one to the count of affidavit ballots and will probably screw someone up who opens the empty in the official canvas.

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