Gary Rudolf, a voter at a polling site near Ft. Lauderdale, tried to vote for gubernatorial candidate Jim Davis (D); however, when the Diebold machine gave him the final review screen, it showed his vote was about to be cast for Charlie Crist (R). The problem took three tries to get resolved with the help of a local poll worker. Mary Cooney, a Broward County Supervisor of Elections spokeswoman, informed The Miami Herald that it’s “not uncommon for screens on heavily used machines to slip out of sync, making votes register incorrectly. Poll workers are trained to recalibrate them on the spot — essentially, to realign the video screen with the electronics inside. The 15-step process is outlined in the poll-workers manual.”
Oh, yes, because it’s such a good idea to rely on: 1) the voter to spot the error and say something before it’s too late (these are Florida voters, thousands of whom in 2000 accidentally voted for Buchanan, realized their error, voted for Gore as well, and then turned in their obviously worthless double-voted ballot, never thinking to ask for a new one); and 2) the 80-year-old ladies who work at the polls to successfully follow a 15-step process to “recalibrate” the computers. Problem solved! [/sarcasm]
Seriously, where’s Eleanor Green when you need her? I knew the new voting systems had some problems, but I never imagined anything this bad… yikes. Hopefully this problem is limited to Broward County, but why would we have any reason to believe that? (Hat tip: Briandot.)
Sounds to me like HAVA-induced madness has caused us to rush touch-screen voting machines into use before they’re ready for prime time, the result of which could be a huge election-day clusterf*** followed by a massive backlash that prevents such machines from ever being trusted again, even though — if designed properly — they have the potential to really improve* our voting system.
Yet another reason to recite the Election Administrator’s Prayer: “Lord, let this election not be close.”
*Improve, but not perfect. Nothing can perfect our voting system, because our voting system is a system of measurement, measuring the preferences of humans as expressed by humans and administered by humans; as such, it will always have a margin of (human) error, even if we could somehow eliminate all machine error. Thus, the Election Administrator’s Prayer will always be relevant.
UPDATE: George Will weighs in, brilliantly:
The lesson that should have been learned from Florida was: In Florida, as in life generally, one should pursue as much precision as is reasonable — but not more. When, as very rarely happens, a large electorate, such as that state’s 6.1 million voters in 2000, is evenly divided, the many errors and ambiguities that inevitably will occur during the marking of millions of ballots will be much more numerous than the margin of victory. That is unfortunate, but no great injustice will be done, no matter who is declared the winner in a contest that is essentially tied.
Unfortunately, the lesson the nation chose to learn from Florida was that American technological wizardry could prevent such highly unusual events, and no expense should be spared to do so. Hence HAVA, which made $3.8 billion available for states to purchase the most modern voting equipment.
On Election Day, 38 percent of the nation’s voters will use touch screens to record their choices, according to Election Data Services. Unlike optical scanners that read markings put on paper ballots, most touch-screen machines — including those that the New York Times reports will be used in about half of the 45 districts with the most closely contested House races — produce no paper that can be consulted for verification of the results if a recount is required.
Maryland’s new $106 million touch-screen system melted into a chaos of mechanical and human errors in last month’s primary election. Lawsuits have been filed in five states seeking to block the use of touch-screen machines.
Today’s political climate — hyperpartisanship leavened by paranoia and exploited by a national surplus of lawyers — makes this an unpropitious moment for introducing new voting technologies that will be administered by poll workers who often are retirees for whom the task of working a DVD player is a severe challenge. Furthermore, an election is, after all, a government program, and readers of Genesis know that new knowledge often brings trouble. So we should not be surprised if, on Nov. 7, new voting machinery does what new technologies — dams, bridges, steamships, airplanes — have done through history: malfunction.
(Hat tip: my dad.)