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Tuesday, February 17, 2004

Don't forget those voting machines!
Jack at Ruminate This has a list of electronic voting machine screw-ups which couldn't be fixed because there was no paper trail. He suggests that we inundate local election officials with requests to provide verifiable voting methods, and if they won't, we inundate them with absentee ballots.

I will add that we shouldn't reject electronic voting machines entirely. They have the potential for making voting simpler, and eliminating overvotes and unintended undervotes. They also will be almost required if we are ever to implement instant-runoff voting in a large way. What we need to do is require that each machine produce two identical pieces of paper which document how the voter voted. The voter could review these, and if they were satisfactory then she would give one to an election official and keep one for herself. She could keep this copy private, or she could share it with party officials, journalists, or anyone else interested in verifying the election. If an error was found, she could ask for another opportunity to vote by machine, or request a hand-countable paper ballot.

Touchscreen voting should be viewed as a means to simplify and error-proof voting, not primarily as a way to more quickly count the votes. Perhaps the touchscreen machines should not even be directly connected to tallying computers--they could simply produce paper ballots which are both human- and machine-readable, and error free. These ballots would be run through scanners, and the scanners would be spot checked for accuracy.