Thursday, February 28, 2008

Polling place problems

When something goes wrong on Election Day, a lot of people start screaming "conspiracy," particularly those whose candidate just lost. The reality is often more disturbing:
While folks in Washington were waiting hours to vote under record turnout Feb. 12, poll workers hid electronic voting machines because they didn't like the touch-screen devices. On Super Tuesday in Chicago, poll workers passed out pens meant for e-voting machines. When those instruments made no mark on paper ballots, election workers said they were full of invisible ink — an explanation that was upheld by onsite precinct judges.
Invisible ink, folks.

The fact is, our polling places are run by older people without a ton of training or compensation. That's not likely to change any time soon. We might consider this as we think about the kinds of voting machines that work best. Even the best electronic voting machine will break occasionally and will be distrusted by a sizable chunk of voters. Old fashioned lever machines, or even paper and pencil, actually work, and poll workers can deal with problems related to them.

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