Shallow Thoughts : : 02

Akkana's Musings on Open Source Computing and Technology, Science, and Nature.

Tue, 02 Nov 2004

Blocked voter registrations

As long as I'm collecting links to news stories, here are some about attempts to block voter registration or otherwise intimidate or discourage voters. States involved: Nevada, Florida, Oregon, Michigan, Ohio, and Iowa.

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[ 23:07 Nov 02, 2004    More politics/election04 | permalink to this entry | comments ]

Touchscreen machines changing votes

I mentioned to someone the problems that have been showing up for a week where voters think they've voted for one candidate, then realize upon getting to the final review that the machine has recorded votes for a different candidate, and discovered that I didn't have handy links to any of those stories. So here's a collection of stories from Texas and New Mexico:

Unfortunately the stories seldom say what type of touchscreen voting machine was being used.

And keep in mind that changing only a single vote per voting machine in the 2000 election could have made a difference of 25 electoral votes, according to a recent ACM study (which unfortunately isn't readable online unless you're an ACM member).

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[ 22:43 Nov 02, 2004    More politics/election04 | permalink to this entry | comments ]

Two good election shenanigans sites

BoingBoing seems to be slashdotted (probably not by slashdot) but two other sites with excellent up-to-date news on election problems are E-Voting Experts, covering reports of problems with touchscreen and optical scan voting machines, and Equal Vote, covering some of the legal challenges against voters, in states such as Ohio and (of course) Florida.

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[ 14:07 Nov 02, 2004    More politics/election04 | permalink to this entry | comments ]

I voted

I'm happy to report that voting with paper in my neighborhood was surprisingly low hassle.

The registrar did not ask me whether I wanted paper, but when I saw her circle "E" I hastily told her "I want a paper ballot". She looked momentarily surprised, but recovered quickly, scribbled over the "E" and marked "P". They didn't offer a pen, but I had brought one so I didn't ask.

Then came the wait. They had four or five touchscreen machines, but only one booth (made from a cardboard box) for paper voters, already occupied. The ballot is long (in fact, there are two paper ballots, each 2-sided) so it takes quite a while to finish it. That was fine, because it gave me a chance to hear that they began asking the people registering behind me whether they wanted paper or electronic. They often had to explain the difference to voters who had no idea what the options were, which didn't sound easy; they were very patient about helping people understand the options and didn't try to brush anyone off. Roughly half of the people there chose paper.

Voting was straightforward except that the booth's ledge was very low (for wheelchair access; the voter ahead of me was in a wheelchair). I probably should have grabbed a chair.

While I was marking my paper ballot, I heard a woman who was having a lot of trouble getting the touchscreen machine to work. The pollworker worked with her for quite a while. I think they eventually straightened it out; it sounded like maybe she had to press really hard to get it to register her votes.

When I had finished, my ballot went straight into a box, no provisional envelopes or anything like that. Paper voters get a different sticker, not the new "I voted, touchscreen" sticker (so I don't get to draw a circle-slash with a Sharpie like I'd planned).

Reports I hear from other Santa Clara county voters: most have been asked "electronic or paper?" and I haven't heard any reports of provisional envelopes or other weirdness. Many who voted paper report people voting outside booths; in one case no booth was available, and paper voters sat at a folding table. There wasn't much privacy on the machines either, though: they don't have much of a wing to hide the screen from onlookers, so if you wanted to snoop on someone's votes, it's not difficult.

All in all, I was pleased with how easy it was to vote with paper, with the competence of the poll workers, and with how many people chose the paper option.

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[ 12:44 Nov 02, 2004    More politics/election04 | permalink to this entry | comments ]

Problems voting with paper ballots

BoingBoing (the esteemed Cory Doctorow) already has coverage of some of the problems people are encountering trying to vote here in Santa Clara County (California) this morning.

Like the Vote Save Error #9. Use the Backup Voting Procedure." message one voter got when trying to use the touchscreens.

But about that backup voting procedure: it seems that even if you can persuade them to give you a paper ballot (bring your own pen, even though the Voter Information Guide specifically says on page 164 that after signing in at the polls the voter "receives a paper ballot along with an approved marking device"), the ballots cast on paper are being put in "provisional" envelopes, yet without the identifying information on the envelope which is used to approve provisional ballots. One really wonders if such votes will be counted.

I wonder if it will be possible to get statistics after the fact for the total number of paper ballots counted in each precinct (and how many of them were provisional)? For comparison, I wish someone was doing exit polls to get an idea of what percentage of people are requesting paper ballots.

Meanwhile, Kelly Martin reports that in Cook County, Ill. voting is no longer by secret ballot. Each ballot has a number on it which is correlated with the voter's name.

One of the boingboing comments points out that voting problems should be reported to voteproblem.org. The EFF suggests using the Election Incident Reporting System.

Stay tuned.

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[ 10:58 Nov 02, 2004    More politics/election04 | permalink to this entry | comments ]