The Wayback Voting Machine

11 Nov

Well, it was election Tuesday this week. Here in New Jersey we had our second major election in the last three weeks. Thankfully this last one was actually on a Tuesday.

Still it always amazes me that whenever I walk into a polling station it feels like I’m time traveling back into the 1970s when I was first able to cast a ballot in an election. When it comes to voting in the United States, apparently nothing has changed in the last 40 years…not even the machines…or the tables or chairs or buildings or the people inside. They too all seem to be about 40 years older than they were when I first encountered them back in the day.

What gives? How come everything else in the world has become modernized and electrified and computerized to the point where it can be accessed with a hand held device and the point of a finger tip, but not voting. And now in certain states (Republican controlled) they are making it even harder for people to get to the polling stations, requiring them to wait on longer lines and making it more difficult for people to prove who they are…in person!

And all the while still asking us to push a button on an old machine, or punch a card, or mark a paper ballot and drop it in a box…and all because there supposedly just isn’t any other safe way to do it… for after all what could be a safer and more accurate way to count votes in an election than by having people count paper ballots by hand or reading numbers from machines and then adding them up together and then handing them over to other people who continue to do the same.

Are we living in the 21st century or am I just dreaming? Is this the age of the iPad and smart phone and Ebay and Etrade and Ebanking and computerized, drone warfare? Or isn’t it?

Can we at least start to modernize our voting system in what most Americans seem to agree is the greatest democracy in the free world so that each and every one of our citizens, of voting age, can vote in a timely, safe, quick and easy manner?

The United States is first in war, first in wealth… and for some reason when it comes to bringing election technology into the 21st century…first to say, “It can’t be done!”

4 Responses to “The Wayback Voting Machine”

  1. smilecalm November 11, 2013 at 5:09 am #

    I recall reading that newer machines were easily programmed to favor certain candidates, just like slot machines. Perhaps these old machines reflect our collective inability to make progress with habits of voting for politicians who ultimately end up representing the highest bidder. Let’s hope for modern machines and wiser, engaged voters.

  2. tric November 11, 2013 at 10:13 am #

    I smiled when I read this. Here in Ireland we vote in small cut off cubicles with a pen tied by a piece of string to the side of the table! It takes days in some cases to have a result as all votes are hand counted.
    A number of years ago it was decided to trial voting machines. Over 7000 were bought. It was subsequently decided they were not safe for purpose and the idea scrapped. It cost in total over €50 million and these machines were eventually sold for recycling for €70,000.
    It would appear that with Ireland currently being a country in economic crisis, the cost of a few million pens is the better option!

  3. RAB November 11, 2013 at 12:27 pm #

    In Connecticut, or at least in my district, we now sit in little cubicles, fill out our ballots by hand (“be sure to blacken the circle completely, and don’t make any stray marks”–very SATs!). Then we place our ballots into red folders and carry them to the scanning machine, which gobbles up, and presumably records, our votes. Seems like the worst of two worlds. I miss the satisfaction of clicking down a lot of separate knobs and the throwing the big switch that recorded the votes and opened the curtain of the booth. Some states swear by mailed ballots, but then we hear about stacks of votes (quite often Democratic) “discovered” in dumpsters behind town halls… The biggest manufacturer of computerized voting systems in the US has just been charged with fraud in another connection, and its owner has repeatedly declared his allegiance to one particular party…. Can democracy work anymore?

  4. ehveedubu November 11, 2013 at 3:50 pm #

    Those that control the nuts and bolts of our elections aren’t interested in real small “d” democracy. And there are powerful pressures to tamper with the programming in modern voting equipment. And without all that arcane paper-trail stuff, how do you prove that a system isn’t rigged? Admittedly, I don’t have the computer skills to know whether I can trust the modern systems. (Just google “Diebold voting”) In the absence of verifiable technology, I find the # 2 pencils and fill-the-bubble quaintly reassuring.

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