Note: This is not meant to insult the volunteers who give their time to seeing to it that Democracy happens in our own back yards. This is purely a rant concerning the technology used in the modern voting process.
So, I left home early today to go to my polling place and vote, like any other normal red-white-and-blue American citizen.
Everything went smoothly–I was checked in, got my little electronic card, and was shown to a voting machine on which to cast my ballot.
I got to the last screen of selections, and upon hitting the “Summary” button to review the recorded choices, the machine shut off. Nothing. Blank screen. Great.
I hailed one of the volunteers, and after reassuring me that they “had never seen anything like this before”, they proceeded to contact the local tech admin to find out what to do. All of the volunteers stood around misty-eyed like lost children, wondering how to proceed.
After 20 minutes of barely any conversation between this tech admin and the mysterious person on the other side of their phone connection, I was ushered to a new machine, and my card was run through again. I completed my voting, sure to double then triple check my choices, and was on my way.
Needless to say, this process did not leave me feeling like my vote was being recorded as it should, given the uncertainty of the situation. I did not submit my ballot before the first machine shut off, and the second machine did not give any kind of error when I attempted to vote again, so most likely, everything was fine, and my ballot was only submitted once.
No offense meant to the wonderful volunteers who take time out of their schedules to see through this most important American tradition, but WTF? Placing the responsibility of ensuring voters understand enough to put their finger on the screen where they mean to (a skill which my 2 year old has easily mastered using an Android tablet) is a little too much when the technology being used is outside the understanding of the volunteers.
Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.
Arthur C. Clarke in Profiles of the Future (revised edition, 1973)
If we were using paper ballots, then I can see these volunteers taking care of business and getting this grand work done with minimal effort, all the while understanding the entire process knowing the clear-cut procedures laid out for when something goes awry.
But placing retirees from the community in a position where they are in charge of these magical boxes which are notoriously easy to circumvent, with little to no training on troubleshooting procedures is a clear cause for concern when hoping for a fair, concise and balanced election.
I have seen video today showing how one voting machine in particular was (most likely) calibrated incorrectly, leading voters to choose the wrong candidate on the ballot. Voters who are in a hurry, or simply do not re-check their choices could easily find their intended vote counted incorrectly.
Why is this okay? Why do we continue to use this aging technology, and keeping its mystical inner workings outside the knowledge of even those who will most likely need to troubleshoot first hand?
Is it money? Because if you say it is money, I say to you: Bullshit. Less than one half of every penny I pay in taxes goes toward funding NASA, and NASA is capable of using that tiny budget to fucking put robots on Mars and keep them working for YEARS past their original mission end dates. We cannot spare a tiny portion of tax money to have some military-grade infrastructure put in place including several layers of failsafes in order to accomplish the arguably most important activity we do as United States Citizens?
What am I proposing?
Nothing. Not a goram thing.
Would I like to propose some solution to this problem? Sure. Am I qualified to propose a solution to this problem? No
We are a nation who is being led (largely) by half-retarded popular kids who are so removed from society that they do not understand any of the workings of the lives of the citizens they were chosen to represent.
I would love to say that this issue will get resolved sometime in the future, but I do not want to hold any sort of hope toward that goal.
When my generation are the ones who begin to take over these roles, we will also be removed from the lives and circumstances of the younger people and the technologies out there. This is something that surely happens with each successive generation, and is not likely to end.
The system which is now in place works as well as a bucket with a hole in the bottom, but placing a band-aid over the leak is not going to make the bucket more effective.