The Next Election (Poltical, of course) : LUSENET : Countryside : One Thread

For those Ohio folks out there... .

On the news last night, the election officials in Mahoning County are forging ahead with plans to test the next generation voting machines in time for the Primary next Spring. It is a touch screen system, using either your finger or a soft stylus. The voting official inserts a cartridge into the machine that unlocks the voting screen. Then the voter makes their selections. It is impossible to vote for more than one issue or candidate more than once. When all through, you hit the voting button and your answers are locked in. And the voting official removes the software cartridge. So from now until next spring, officials will try to figure out how to break it, compromise it, corrupt it and trash it. What they should really do is put the voting machines in a high school computer lab :). .

What's the point? After the fiasco in Florida, I will never vote again using a punch card voting machine. Years ago, the designers of those machines warned that a certain percentage of ballots could be mis-read because of the hanging punch chips called "chads". If you take the exact same number of punched ballots and run them through the counter 3 times, you could get 3 different counts. .

Like fools, we accepted the punch ballot machines and the inherent counting problems, almost without question. That was the price of "modern" technology. The smart election officials compensated by legislating a manual recount and setting up state-wide uniform recount procedures. Others did not. But what was really pathetic to me, while watching the news clips of election workers squinting at tiny holes in cards, was the realization that we had become slaves to the technology, not masters of it. The punch card system was the gasoline on the floor. It just required a match labled "too-close-to-call" for it to blow up. The match happened to fall in Florida. .

Is Ohio unique in its search for a better voting system? No. The quest is underway nation-wide with a new sense of urgency. .

So, what's going on in your neck of the woods? .


-- Craig Miller (, November 16, 2000


...that is, what's going on besides my hacking the word "political". (Con-founded technology. Stupid keyboard. It's supposed to know what I want to type) :)


-- Craig (, November 16, 2000.

Craig, in our neck o' the woods we use a voting machine VEEERRRRYYY similar to the one you are describing. I used to vote with a #2 pencil to "fill-in" the dot for the candidate and I didn't like it at all. You can just imagine the different ways to creatively "interperet" the results. With the computerized voting machine, you cannot accidently vote for more than one person (unless more than one position is to be filled) and there is an LCD screen with a keypad to allow you to "write-in" (key-in ?) a candidate if you wish. The entire process is MUCH faster as well. I think the residents of Mahoning County would like them.

-- Steven in NC (, November 16, 2000.

Oh. I hope we can find a good solution. Computer tallying makes me slightly nervous. I used to manage info: tables on databases. Data can be manipulated back-office a lot more easily than boxes of punch cards. However, if they can work out the security, I think we should go for a high tech version. We definitely need to find something better than the Florida version! I have been listening to a lot of foreign newscasts....and we are the laughing stock of the world. Oh well.

-- sheepish (, November 16, 2000.

I get it one-on-one, sheepish... .

I work for a multi-national law firm in their tech department. I get kidded every day from secretaries in our European offices. They want to know if they can send THEIR election officials over here to show us how to run a national election. The kicker is the accountant in our Bejing office who is willing to ship a Chinese abacus to Florida to help speed things up. What's an abacus? A 2,000 year old counting machine using sliding beads. Sheeeeeesh! I feel like Grover on Sesame Street.


-- Craig (, November 16, 2000.

After seeing all the different kinds of voting machines on the news, I haven't seen the kind mentioned that we use in our county. We have a really large "box" looking kind of thing that we stand in front of. It has the candidates names largely printed on it and well seperated. Beside each candidate, you punch on the screen with your finger and a light lights up red, so you visually know who you've voted for. After punching the ones you've wanted, you can stand back and visually go over your choices, then you "hit" a large button that says VOTE. Anytime before you hit the vote button, you can change your mind. I changed at least 2 or 3 choices before I hit the vote button. There is also a large button at the top that says clear, if you want to start all over. I really like our system and have never heard any complaints on it. Craig, it sounds like Ohio is going on the right path. Good for you all!!! I hope Florida follows your lead.

-- Annie (, November 16, 2000.

Alabama uses a paper ballot that has an arrow head and arrow tail by the name. To make it count, you must connect the two parts in the middle by adding the "shaft". Seems like all voting systems need to be standardized some way.

-- Jay Blair in N. AL (, November 16, 2000.

Hi Jay,

As much as I think a national voting system would be the best practical answer, it's not the best political answer. You get into the whole state's rights thing and "we don't want Washington telling us what to do", etc. Maybe a uniform state-wide system, but not national. So, it's going to be mix and match. But it has to be a better mix and match than what we have now. The strength of a diverse system is that the WHOLE thing can't be manipulated and corrupted. .

A chain is only as strong as its weakest link. The punch ballot seems to be the weakest link so far. The absentee ballot is another. You hold an election, you count the ballots, you declare a winner and THEN you count the absentee ballots a week later. 'SCUSE ME!?!


-- Craig (, November 16, 2000.

We use the same type system here as Annie. It's easy and I don't see how anyone if you half way pay attention to what you are doing could foul up. Course, I didn't think the Florida ballots were that difficult either!!! I truthfully agree that they should be standardized all over the country. Before this, I actually thought they were! And yes, we have become a laughing stock and I'll tell you the truth, I know longer tell people I am from Florida. Lived there a long time ago and all 4 of my children were born there and I graduated from high school there but that is my secret now - ha ha!!!

-- bwilliams (, November 16, 2000.

I guess I live in the sticks. Paper balot, #2 pencil, make an "X" in the box next to your candidates name. Pretty simple, huh? I still read directions twice before I marked, double checked my choices( yes Mrs. Kirk, I was paying attention), and reread the directions before I folded my ballot and stuffed it into a wooden box. Had the people of Palm Beach county and others taken as much care in the exercise of their right to vote, maybe this would all be moot.

-- ray s. (, November 16, 2000.

But don't you see the problem with that Ray... .

If you marked your ballot with a "+" instead of a "x", then someone is going to run to court screaming religion has no place on the ballot, that if it was a Democrat it should have been marked "o" and unless it was marked "xxx" across, diagonally or up-and-down you don't win. Any school kid know that. :)


-- Craig (, November 16, 2000.

We have those high tech flat tables with two sides on it to "hide" what your doing from your neighbor. Then you color in the circle on the paper ballot next to the candidate you want. When you are all done you walk over to the ballot box and put it in. However, the ballot box is electrical and it sucks your ballot into it. Honest to goodness it looks just like a paper shredder. I even commented to the voting monitor that I liked their paper shredder. He didn't laugh. Now, looking back it sure makes me wonder. LOL

-- Colleen (, November 16, 2000.

We use a paper ballot with clear boxes next to names. Candidates are in columns based on political party. So all the presidential candidates were in the top row going across, clearly separated from the neighboring candidates. Very easy. Also, there is a box on the top of each column, under the party name, if you want to vote a straight ticket. If I marked a straight republican ticket, but then checked a box for a libertarian magistrate, the libertarian would get my vote, but all others would be for the straight ticket.

-- Anne (, November 16, 2000.

This is fantastic Colleen... .

I'm going to make a copy of this thread, paste it in a scrap book and tell my grand-kids someday, "This is how we used to vote in this country" and we'll all have a good laugh. Incredible!


-- Craig (, November 16, 2000.

(:raig- My point was that it I don't have to worry about, nor should I, someone interpreting the mark I made on my ballot as I did it according to some very simple instructions and checked more than once to ensure that I was in compliance. My "X"'s were clearly marked and inside the box of my chosen candidate. Had I not followed the very simple rules in place I would have no one to blame for my ballot being tossed but myself. Voting is a right and along with it comes the responsibility to do it in accordance with the rules set in place at the time the ballot is cast.

I have no problem with a hand recount of votes cast. I do have a proble with interpreting the meaning of a mark on a ballot. I do not even object to hand counting ballots in the democratic counties in FL., but I do object to the sliding scale of what is or is not a valid vote that we have seen. What wasn't a vote according to guidelines agreed upon Saturday morning can now be "interpreted" as a vote today. This is patently wrong.

-- ray s. (, November 16, 2000.

Ray, I was thinking about the simplicity of the paper ballot... .

...and realized that any new computer driven, touch screen voting machine will have to generate some sort of "hard copy" backup. If there is a power failure or memory error in the new systems, how can they certify what the voter did unless a paper ballot, with the appropriate marks is stored separately from main memory. .

Remember the promises made about computers 20 years ago? They were going to eliminate paper. Yea, right. And yet it seems that good ol' fashioned paper, where "X" marks the spot, should be used to bail out the fanciest machine when it poops out.


-- Craig (, November 17, 2000.

The big drawback to our way of voting is time. Hard to count all those x's by hand. The system in use in most of WI and many other places is pretty good, though. You use a marker to complete an arrow between your candidates name and a box on the ballot. The big advantage is that when you turn your ballot in it is read by a machine to ensure there are no errors. If you drew two lines in one race or forgot to draw a line the ballot is rejected on the spot allowing corrections to be made. Would have saved a lot of time and money in S. Florida, huh?

-- ray s. (, November 17, 2000.

I understand that the man that holds the patent on the "votomatic" punch card ballot machine was spotted in a rubber raft paddling TOWARDS Cuba. :)


-- Craig (, November 17, 2000.

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