Monday, August 27, 2007

More thoughts on Voting, Part II

To continue yesterday's thoughts:
  1. The guys running the electronic voting machines (EVMs) are technically inept. I was excited to find out that I had a choice between an old-school "scantron" ballot or an EVM. Since I don't trust that newfangled technology stuff, I went for the old school. However, I then asked the Diebold technitian (I guess every polling spot had one) for a demo since I've been really curious about them. He got very confused saying he couldn't really show me because I'd already voted, but when I asked him to just talk me through it he agreed. According to him, I would have gotten a number from the election officials which corresponds to my precinct (and therefore the various races I was eligible to vote in) and he would "burn" it onto a smartcard. Okay, he didn't actually call it a smartcard, and he's completely wrong about burning it but whatever. Next, I would put the smartcard into the machine, ignore the old-school number pad that was attached (he couldn't tell me what this was used for), and use the touchscreen to cast my votes. I even got to see the paper trail, which would have recorded my vote on receipt paper under glass, so I could see it to confirm my vote, but not tamper with it or take it with me. Technical ineptitude aside, I was reasonably impressed with the EVM so I'll give it a shot in November.
  2. The poll workers were so happy to see me. The polling place was pretty empty, as expected during an early odd-year primary, and it was really cute how excited they were to have someone young-ish, interested, and competent there (there was one other guy trying to vote while I was there, but he was old and curmudgeonly and totally confused by the fact that you had to choose only candidates of one party, not both - more on that later).
  3. I've heard from several Canadians that they don't understand why Americans have such low voter turnout until they first see an American ballot and realize how long it is and how much research you have to do to figure out what to vote for. I guess there you just pick your party or person and that's it. I wonder if we should consider something similar, but then I go back to my point about people needing to make an effort to vote, and I think, "why bother"?
  4. I'm totally befuddled by the fact that Washingtonians get so freaked out at having to declare party allegiance during the primaries. In California you registered as a Democrat (or Republican if you were from Orange County) and that was that. When you went to vote you got your Democratic ballot, and all was good. Here people can't handle that. They want to vote for anyone they like during the primary, and when that was declared unconstitutional they tried the current method which has you "declare" a party at the top of the primary ballot and then only vote for the candidates on that section of the ballot (this is what was causing the curmudgeon mentioned above some confusion - he understood declaring one party, but wanted to vote for candidates in all the party ballot sections). Why is this so awful? J even uses it as an excuse not to vote in the primaries - he claims he's protesting. What I don't get is how a system with no parties works better - let's say you have 10 Republican candidates and 2 Democratic ones vying for a spot - if the Republican vote gets split 10 ways it's likely you'd have 2 Democrats on the ticket in November. That's great for me (generally) but seems pretty unfair. I'm fine with the primary system as is, but I'd love to see a full-election system where you could vote for candidates in priority order, so that if your #1 candidate didn't get more than 50% of the votes, your vote would roll down to your #2 candidate and so on. That way you could vote for the small-party candidate without feeling like you were throwing away your vote.
Anyway, there are just a few of my many thoughts on voting. Now if only I ruled the world...well, at least the polls would be populated by tech-savy geeks who would know about upcoming elections. It would be a small step forward.

3 comments:

alexwein said...

Wow, I was totally unaware that you could "declare" your party on top of the ballot.

This can lead to very peculiar social movements - "vote up the loser from the other party so he never wins in the real election". I'm wondering if anyone tried that before :-p

SabraGirl said...

Actually that's sort of what my parents always did - they registered as Republicans to vote for the more reasonable Republican candidate so if their Democratic candidate lost, they would still have someone they could live with. Likewise, I know many people registered as Republicans to vote for Bush in the primaries in 2000 because they thought he would be easier to beat than McCain. Obviously that plan wasn't particularly effective...

Anonymous said...

that clip art is out of control...