March 02, 2004

Did I Vote?

I went to the polling place. I used a Diebold machine.

But I have no idea if I actually voted nor do I know if my vote actually was counted.

The happy-go-lucky local San Diego TV news reported tonight very nonchalantly that roughly 25% of the voting machines DIDN'T WORK when the polls opened this morning. Why? DIEBOLD and MICROSOFT WINDOWS SOFTWARE PROBLEMS.

Me? Scream? Yes!

The county of San Diego paid $30-some-odd million to Diebold for the voting machine contract. 25% of them didn't work this morning. Lots of disruptions in people being able to vote.

I was not happy when they gave me a sticker that didn't just say "I VOTED", but it said "I VOTED TOUCH SCREEN". I did not "vote touch screen." I never voted for it, and I didn't want it. I used it, but I resented the implication that I was supporting it.

But more specifically, It's Not The Touch-Screen That Is the Problem. I didn't mind the touch-screen terminal. Kinda reminded me of PLATO. Only took 'em 31 years, but who's counting.

The problem is that the San Diego Elections people have been very carefully spinning (and the local media has been happily repeating the spin) that this is all about "touch screens" and that "some people aren't happy with the touch screens" and that "for the most part people found them easy to use".


It's very much about what happens to your vote *after* it is processed by the touch screen terminal. Where does it go? What machines does it pass through? What evidence is there that my vote was even counted? I took my little card out of the Diebold machine when I was done voting, stood in the center of the neighbor's garage polling place, waved the card around to all the polling people, none of whom seemed to care. Finally got someone's attention, and she took the card. I have no idea what she did with it. I did not see her run the card through a reader or other machine, and she gave me nothing but the sticker.

Also, I was never asked to show ID today. I could've been anybody. I found that surprising.

When I was about to leave, I asked the lady who gave me the sticker, "So, there's no physical proof that I actually voted today. All there is is this digital card. No paper trail. Nothing in case a recall is needed."

She looked at me, tired, no energy to deal with the issue.

"You've probably heard this comment all day today," I said.

She smiled and shook her head yes. Then she said, "Supposedly in 2006 they'll be introducing a paper hardcopy to the system so that there will be a record of the ballots."

"Conveniently two years after the 2004 presidential election."

"Yes," she said, shaking her head in resignation, "very conveniently."

Posted by brian at March 2, 2004 09:50 PM


I voted yesterday too. And I voted on a Diebold machine. Today I blogged Avi Rubins essay on his experiences yesterday. Interesting stuff.

Posted by: Joe Crawford at March 3, 2004 08:56 AM

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