Looking back at the Y2K Election, I remember writing this essay while still stationed in Japan. With all the news in Wisconsin and other places over Voter Fraud, or Election Fraud, it still makes sense. Please ignore any anachronisms that may amuse you. Some, but not all, of this has already come to pass. Just not nationwide.
As we have already kicked off the Y2K+4 elections I am wondering if we are setting up for a repeat of Florida all over again. Remember what you saw on the news? People counting "chads" for christsakes. The courts having to preside. Doesn't matter who you supported, it had to be about the most embarrassing spectacle politically we could achieve. But it was great TV. My friends in Japan laughed and laughed. They thought it was hilarious that the most powerful nation on earth, couldn't figure out how to vote. The rolled and laughed harder and started making more jokes that started "We can put a man on the moon.........". That's really lame since we did that over thirty years ago. Oh damn that's the point huh?
Each of us has a vision. Mine gets blurred by too much coffee sometimes but it still is really clear on how we should vote. See, until 2003 I never, ever, used a ballot machine. I voted absentee as part of the US Military's effort to allow everyone to vote. Our Voting Officers made sure we could register, and when elections went. I had to read the ballot and follow directions. No double holes allowed. No "folding, spindling, or (god forbid) mutilating". I knew that if I was too stupid to follow directions, then my ballot voided. The price of stupidity was to lose your voice as it were.
Here's how I wish we elected people.
For starters we need a National Standard. One Machine. One tabulating method. One school if needed to make it work from sea to shining sea. I see an ATM being used because they are simple to make (thousands out there), never heard of one being hacked, and they print a receipt.
Picture this on election day.
You and your closest buds head down to the polling place.
As you open the door you are greeted by the local election dude who asks for some ID. He then checks your name off a list, and gives you a PIN. Then you are directed to an ATM where you enter your pin and step aside. The result is that your presence has been recorded both manually and digitally.
At that point you see a few more ATM's and you get in the line of your choice. Normally the short one right? Except me, I always go long cuz if I pick a short line it will back up. As the line moves along finally its my turn.
Moving up to the ATM I notice that it has no keyboard to confuse me. Only a number pad. The screen is flashing "Press 999 to begin voting.", so I do. That demonstrates my first ability to follow simple directions. Then it asks me to read one of three questions and answer them. At the end of each question it says "to answer this question press 1 (or 2 or 3)". So I press one and answer, b, cause it is multiple choice. The point of the questions is to identify someone who cannot understand English or follow directions. If you can't get past this point, there will be election workers to assist you.
Finally I am proven smart enough to vote. It says on the screen FOR THE OFFICE OF PRESIDENT AND VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES, PLEASE SELECT ONE. They are in Alphabetical Order. My candidate is number four on the list. So I press "4". The Screen asks me to Press the Enter Key to confirm my vote. Repeating this process over and over until the slate is full. When I am done the Screen says "You have voted for:[LISTING] Press Enter for final confirmation".
I press the Enter button and my receipt prints out. I note that it lists the same vote I just confirmed. I also note the barcode along the bottom.
Me and my receipt exit the ATM where we find a worker. He asks me to formally look over my receipt one last time. "Are those your votes?" he asks. "EeYup", I reply. I am instructed to place my ballot in the locked box. Then he asks me to enter my pin that I got as I entered the building into his ATM. Finally he checks my name off on his list.
As I leave I notice that there are no reporters to ask me how I voted. Under Phil's World View you don't have the right to know the progress of an election. Only the final results once the polls are closed and the results certified.
Once the polls are closed the election workers begin to do the following to ensure the integrity of the voting.
FIRST: Verify the number of voters checked off entering and leaving the building.
SECOND: Verify the number of pins entered into the two ATM's entering and leaving the building.
Steps one and two must Match exactly.
THIRD: Have the voting ATM's consolidate the numbers (selections) and spit them out separately by machine.
FOURTH: Scan the individual receipts and ensure the numbers match the ATM's. Each receipt will also list the number of the ATM it came from.
Steps three and four must match exactly.
FIFTH: Verify the total number of ballots against the numbers in steps one and two.
If all five verification steps match, the vote is electronically transmitted up the chain until final tally. The receipts are forwarded under guard to the Governors designated place for safekeeping for the period designated by law. The vote is considered certified and the results can be released to the public at the local election officials discretion.
If any of the five steps don't match, then all votes are immediately destroyed. The memories of the ATM are purged. The election board figures out what went wrong during the night. For the next three days, there is a do-over in that one voting area. It is as if it didn't happen.
You have positive counting of voters in and out of the building by two separate methods.
Without compromising the privacy of the voter, you ensure they are not stupid, and the vote they cast is the one they wanted. IOW, no question of intent.
By not releasing the results before closing, you ensure that no one feels that "there's no point, da udder guy dun won".
If the results are somehow invalidated, instead of multiple, slanted, recounts: You just do it over.
Not touch screen: Lack of touch screens do the following: It discriminates against illiterates, stupid people, and non-English speakers. Touch screens are still too buggy and expensive in my view. Until price goes down and reliability goes up simple ATM programming is the way to go. Besides some idiot would punch the picture of his opponent, break the screen, and cut his hand.
No networking: It would be better to network this somehow. But I am not sure how. Hackers, Crackers, and other internet boogey men could get into the mix.
Still too many potentially partisan election officials still in the mix. You got the guy at the front, the back, and the one we hope will help the idiot who couldn't get past the first set of questions on the ATM. I'd like to see a voting system that allows me to cast my vote, verify it, and not worry about any human polluting my process.
FINALLY: I'd like to modify the Electoral College so it isn't winner take all. Pretend your state gets 10 electoral votes. Divide your state into 10 voting districts. Now you are casting your ballot to actually determine ONE electoral vote. This makes a popular turnout more important. It means that the candidate who wins the popular vote in six of the mythical ten, will walk off with six electoral votes. Its not quite a straight line popular vote, but it would ensure that the low E-count states would be more heavily involved than maybe they are now.