Friday, June 03, 2005

Punch Card Voting Can Be Good

Most election boards are working feverishly to get rid of the punch card voting systems, but when you read about the new systems that are supposed to replace them, punch cards don't sound so bad. That is, if punch cards are part of a larger system.

Yes, I'm talking about the system that brought us hanging chad and pregnant dimples. By itself, the punch card is inadequate, but when properly punched it is easy and accurately counted. What it lacks is an easy way for voters to check that their card has been properly punched before they drop their card in the ballot box. It also lacks an easy method for voters and election officials to check ballots after the election.

The heart of this proposal (which is intended for presidential elections, but may be used for local elections)is an additional device that voters would use to check their ballots. After a voter punches their card, they put it into a reader that removes any hanging chad and then displays who the voter voted for. It will also warn them if they didn’t vote for any particular candidate (undervote) or if they voted for more than one candidate (an overvote that invalidates the entire ballot).

If they’ve unintentionally undervoted, they can put their card back in the voting machine and complete their ballot. If they intentionally didn’t vote for that candidate, they can just ignore the warning.

If they’ve overvoted or realized they voted for the wrong candidate, they can void this ballot and ask for a new one.

This solves the problem of voters knowing how their ballot will be counted before they leave the polling place. Once they confirm that their ballot is correct, they press a button to record their vote electronically and place the punch card ballot in the ballot box.

This additional machine would also print a "receipt" that a voter could later use to confirm how their ballot was actually counted. More on this later.

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