Today I did something that many people would consider
a reasonably normal thing. Actually, I’ve done it before, many times,
and it usually leaves me feeling quite good. Today, however, it was different. When I was done, I felt as if I had just been slightly
violated, cheated, and helpless to do anything about it. I would hope that these feelings are unwarranted, and that I’m just a little
too self conscious, but I’m afraid that so many people who claim that there is something indecent with what I’ve done might be right.
Today I voted.
This was the first time that I had ever voted using the new touch screen voting system that we’ve all heard so many good and
bad things about. To begin with, I have a bias. I work in technology and even though I don’t have a hard Engineering degree,
I’ve seen enough to tell me that the best systems out there are flawed and can be as easily abused & misused as any other
invention since the dawn of civilization.
When I went into the Elementary School Auditorium
that had been designated as my precinct’s polling place, I saw those machines,
waiting for me. Everything else was as it has ever been, a table where I had to look up my name, sign the register (funny how this
step still requires hard copy), then I got a glorified credit card and was told to go stick into the machine and vote. I was shown my
options for the school board and the only bond measure. I made my selections, then was taken to a screen that asked me to review
and confirm my selections. I did, then the card popped out and I was done.
The experience was almost like going to an ATM
with two notable exceptions. First, I didn’t walk away with any cash.
I didn’t get a receipt confirming my transaction. So, I challenged the poll worker and asked, “How do I know that my vote was
registered? I’d like to validate that my vote is correct.” In the old days I could look at the card and make sure the numbers I
punched matched the numbers I wanted to punch on the ballot.
“All the votes are counted. There’s a print-out.” was the reply I received.
“Can I see my vote?”
“You’re not supposed to.”
“Then how can I verify my vote if I can’t see
how it got registered? “ I asked. We shot back a few words that were
than immediate contradictions. For every complaint that the system was not safe or secure, I got a terse, “yes it is” in response.
But in the end, there wasn’t going to be anything positive resulting from our banter. I walked out sure that I had voted, but just
as sure that I had not. It was creepy, it was eerie, and it was downright unpleasant.
I’ve had the arguments with people about whether
or not computerized voting is a good idea. Usually in support are
that praise technology, computer accuracy, etc. I’ve even heard the argument that the old ballots could be lost, stolen, or even stuffed.
While this is true, understanding the vulnerability to tampering to which technology is susceptible makes it clear, at least to me, that now
rather than a few ballot boxes being hijacked, an entire election is at risk. In order to fix old problems, are we creating newer and
bigger ones? I believe so. How many technological improvements in the last 100 years resulted in problems no one foresaw
(Titanic, Hindenburg, Urban sprawl, Fast Food, the Oil Economy, Israel, Dot Coms, etc…), or maybe someone did and had
a motive to keep quiet.
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