Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Two down, one to go

California votes three times this year.

Presidential primary in February (plus a lot of lettered and numbered propositions).

General election in November.

And today, the primary for state senator and state assembly (plus a lot of lettered and numbered propositions).

So that's two down and one more to go.

The difference today was that my polling place had one single electronic voting machine. Five booths for manual paper ballots, and one lonely little electronic machine. The people in charge of the polling place seemed pretty anxious to show it off. While they were handing Chip his paper ballots, a voice behind me said, "Would you like to try the electronic voting system?" A woman sitting to the side said that we will be using that system in future.

Since nothing terribly urgent was riding on today's vote beyond "Migden or Leno," I figured I'd try it.

Frankly, the thing that bothered me most was the fact that the screen was facing out into the middle of the room, so people walking behind me could potentially watch me voting if they so chose.

So if you've never voted on one of these things, this was the process on the machine used at my polling place.

First, they gave me a card labeled "Voter Card". That got inserted into a machine where I personally encoded the card with my party affiliation.

Once that was confirmed, I inserted the card into a machine similar to the one pictured above. Each screen offered one to three issues at a time. The "vote for no more than 12 candidates" page, obviously, took up one full screen by itself, while the Superior Court Justice, State Senator and Assemblyman races all showed on one screen.

That was pretty straightforward -- touch the name (or touch "Yes" or "No"), review, hit "Next".

Then it came time to review the full ballot. It showed me all my votes on one screen for my review and approval. Because I had not voted for twelve people on the "no more than 12 candidates" page, it highlighted that race in red and offered to let me go back and vote for more people. There was not really a clear "Accept this" indication, but I finally figured out the "review paper ballot" was the way I should go. It printed out my votes on a kind of thermal-looking credit card receipt paper and scrolled it in front of me under glass, so I could confirm that the machine's paper trail matched my electronic vote.

So that was the adventure of the day, my attempt at trying something new.

Discussing it on the way home, Chip said that he thought that thermal paper is too easily tampered with -- get it wet or hot, and it becomes unreadable and completely useless.

So I think that when November comes, if I'm given the option of paper ballot or e-vote, I'll take paper.

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