So Earl and I just got back from doing our civic duty and voting in the local elections. There were two referendums on the ballot: one was for New York State to turn some land over to one of the power companies so they could put a 48kV powerline along Route 56 somewhere in the North Country, the other was to allow prison inmates to work for not-for-profit organizations.
There were many choices on the ballot for the smattering of offices we were voting for. Many choices were the same vertically – the same person was running on Democrat, Republican, Independent and Conservative ticket. Some choices didn’t have a Democrat running at all. I did make choices in all elections though.
When we walked into the Town Hall we instantly knew something was decidedly different from previous voting experiences. There was no sound of levers being ticked, no crunching of the big red handle opening the curtain and locking in your vote. No. All the ceremony is gone. You now sign in, are handed a score card, instructed to fill in the square completely in a black, felt-tipped pen and sent to a bank of cubicles that really don’t afford any privacy. Gone are the days where no one else was allowed in the voting booth with you. Gone are the days when you cast your vote in confidence and felt like you were making a difference with the pull of a lever. Gone are the days when your vote was confirmed with the swing of the big red lever and a woosh of the curtains.
You now fill in squares with a black pen and take your scorecard to a big electronic machine and feed it into a document scanner. The LCD screen tells you that your vote is registered. There isn’t even a beep nor is there a Happy Mac icon congratulating you on being a good American.
I asked every election official that I had contact with if they liked the new voting machines and if it made their work any easier or more efficient.
It was a “NO” on all accounts. This is a waste of the taxpayer’s money. In the 1980s the local Super Duper (grocery store) didn’t replace their large, hulking mechanical cash registers until they broke down and were no longer functional. And when it was time to replace them, they did it one at a time. New York State should replace these machines one by one as they start to malfunction, giving the voters a choice between the old and new machines until the old machines are no longer viable.
I’m a geek. I am a certified geek. I have many documents saying how geeky I am. I’m even considering a geek tattoo.
I HATE HATE HATE HATE electronic voting. I don’t trust the voting machines. I don’t trust the companies that make them, I don’t trust the programmers that program them and I certainly don’t trust that they’re going to scan my black dot correctly and accurately. They do NOT make the process simpler for the voting citizen and they are not a step in the right direction.
I feel like voting has gone from a participatory to a spectator sport. I am not comfortable with this at all.