Protest or research

An additional note has been appended to this post since it first appeared.

Sometimes, my desire to use my vote as an act of protest conflicts with my desire to use the act of voting as a means to conduct research.

San Diego County is using electronic touch-screen voting again (for the first time since its use in the 2003 recall election)–this time with a printed verification of how the machine (supposedly) has registered your vote.

I count myself among those who are at least skeptical about these electronic voting devices. Not in a conspiratorial way, but I just feel more confident about voting on paper. (I also like hand-counted ballots, by the way.) The County allows a voter to request a paper ballot. Presumably, if massive numbers did so, they would not have enough–their running out would only increase the protest value, I suppose, but in any event, it is our right to request a paper ballot at the polling place.* I considered doing so, as a protest against those electronic beasts in the polling room.

On the other hand, I really wanted to see how this newfangled contraption–with the paper record printed beneath a clear plastic window–would work. After all, I actually get paid to think, write, and teach about voting, and it is useful to know how different systems work.

In the end, my “research” curiosity won out. And it was easy and fun. Did my vote count? Who knows. Then again, I am in fully safe districts for everything I voted on (unless one or more of the measures proves to be close), so it hardly matters–except in the sense of performing the most important duty any citizen of a democracy can perform; and in the research value. (And luckily, I could still protest, as well, in my selection of mostly third-party candidates, just like always.)

* There was a little controversy here overnight, with a judge rejecting a lawsuit aimed at forcing the election authorities both to provide more paper ballots and to count them tonight (when they count the machines), rather than on Thursday (as the official intend). Is there any fairness issue here? I must admit that I do not see it. While I would prefer that my vote be counted the same, regardless of how I cast it (with the obvious exception of late-arriving absentee or provisional ballots), I can’t see what difference it actually makes. They all get added together, and if the race is close enough, we’ll just have to wait till the paper ballots (and others left outstanding tonight) are counted.

0 thoughts on “Protest or research

  1. Pingback: PoliBlog ™: A Rough Draft of my Thoughts

  2. My voting experience this year was quite disappointing–the absentee ballot never arrived! This is the second time in a row that the wonderful Commonwealth of Massachusetts has screwed up this way, even though I register every election. Strangely enough, they did send my primary ballot this year.

    When the ballot actually gets to me I really enjoy voting by absentee ballot. I can fill it out at my leisure, sitting in front of my computer and researching all the initiatives to make sure I know the pros and cons of each. American ballots are so long that I don’t know how people who go to a voting booth are supposed to remember all their voting intentions. (Amazingly, some people find this reasonable, but then complain that electoral systems which involve ranking candidates would be too complicated.)

    On fully computerized voting, both my technical background and personal experience lead me to believe that it’s not worth the trouble. There are too many ways such a system can be compromised or can break, and very few problems that it solves. There are only two types of computerization to which I would not object.
    1. Counting paper ballots on optical scanners, as long as different systems from different vendors were used to check the results.
    2. Computers with assistive technologies, as long as they’re only used for people who cannot vote using the normal system for physical reasons.

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