Saturday, June 04, 2005

Punch Card Voting - Part 3

This is the third of three posts describing a proposal for using punch card ballot systems in US presidential elections. It will make more sense if you start with the post "Punch Card Voting Can Be Good" from June 3, 2005.

The ballot checking machines are separate from the punch card stations intentionally. This reduces the cost, because current punch card stations can continue to be used. This also provides another layer of security. All voting locations I’ve used have multiple punch card stations. Which one you get is usually randomly chosen. After you punch your ballot, you would pick one of several checking stations to review your ballot. This reduces the chances that the punch card station and the checking machine could be manipulated to record your vote incorrectly.

The checking machines would use a secure, electronic key to program how ballots are displayed and checked. It could also record votes and could be used to verify the results generated by the punch cards. The checking units could also be connected to the Internet. This would allow the ballot checking rules to be verified against the rules at a central location. Eventually votes could also be counted this way and the punch card would be used to verify the electronic count. The secure, electronic key and punch cards would also be backup if the internet connection goes down.

Poll workers will have test cards that they can use to verify that the checking machines are properly displaying the holes in a punched card.

This proposal still requires election officials to register voters, setup and monitor elections. It still requires voters to go to assigned voting locations and it still requires dedicated volunteers to work at polling locations to help voters and monitor the process. It does not seem unreasonable that a voter be required to go to a voting location on election day to cast their ballot.

People who know that they will not be able to go to their local polling location on election day may request that they be allowed to vote for president some reasonable number of days before election days at defined locations. These early voting locations would use the same procedures and equipment that will be used on election day.

A variation using scanned ballots could be implemented for people who are physically unable to go to an early voting location.

If you’ve made it this far, you are obviously interested in how to improve our election process. You probably have some unanswered questions. Some of you may see holes in my proposal and others will have improvements. This is certainly not the only way to have an accurate count and it may not be the best, but I hope that it convinces you that a solution is possible. The federal government needs to provide financial resources and standards so that a uniform method of voting can be implemented across the country. Local and state election officials will still run and monitor elections, but a common system will help restore confidence in the election process. We are now aware that our vote can be threatened by fraud, miscounting or mismanagement on the other side of the country.

Obviously this proposal does not address voter authentication. How do we insure that a voter is authorized to vote in any particular election and that the voter votes only once? I’m sure we can develop a solution. A national voter identification card might solve that problem, but we need a lot of discussion to make sure voter privacy is protected. Let’s hear from people with ideas on how to solve this problem. With a national voter identification card we could allow a voter to vote for presidential candidates at any polling place. I know that many voters expect that internet voting is the solution, but until we solve the voter authentication problem and other security issues, we need election monitors at polling places and physical ballots to insure an accurate and verifiable count.

Even if we implement a system that accurately counts every vote, we still have the Electoral College that makes some votes count more than others. I live in a state that has been a battle ground state. We get a lot more attention than states that are clearly red or blue. Even better, I know my vote is crucial. I think it is unfortunate that states that are clearly red or blue don't get the same attention. They are also welcome to their share of the political ads. More importantly, it is wrong that Republicans in a clearly blue state or Democrats in a clearly red state know that their presidential vote is inconsequential.

Equitable, accurate and fair elections are crucial to a democracy. It is time we make them happen.

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