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November 03, 2004

Okay, I don't approve of electronic balloting. That's not new, I've said it before and I'm repeating it now.

I'm contemplating those closecloseclose races and thinking, well, there's a margin of error in all systems, but there's no way to verify votes on electronic systems. No way to correct errors. No way to identify errors.

You know what I want? I want paper ballots. Yes, it takes a few days to count them. I don't really see a problem with that.

Failing that, I want machines that print out double-receipts. I want the voter to be allowed to look at both of them to confirm their votes, and I want one dropped into sealed ballot boxes to be used for recounts, while the voter gets to keep the other one.

Even that won't stop programming fraud, though. Writing software that will record one thing while printing out another wouldn't take much skill. So maybe what we need to do is mandate recounts on all elections. After the fact, states could be required to count the paper receipts and compare them to the electronic totals.

The bottom line is that unless you have a ballot filled out by a voter in your hand, you're never going to be sure you know how that voter voted. I've been accused of being overly idealistic about human nature, but even I know better than to believe that, given the chance to cheat, men who desperately want power will choose not to. Even I know better than to believe that men whose history shows that they've lied, cheated, and stolen again and again are suddenly going to reform themselves.

From now on, I vote absentee. With a paper ballot. I encourage everyone who has the choice to do so. If we can't get the government to mandate a paper trail, we can create our own.

That won't, of course, solve the problems of this country and the world for the next four years, while Those People remain in the White House, so let me suggest an interim solution. A sort of stopgap measure.

From now until November, 2008, I nominate New Zealand to be the new leader of the free world.

It could work. New Zealand is familiar with the concepts of cooperation and compromise. The nation has a strong sense of responsibility toward the ecology and an ever-improving history of ethnic equality. (Okay, not perfect, but certainly improving.) They're strategically located for easy assess from most of the civilized world, and it would be hard to find a more beautiful location.

We'd also get Queen Elizabeth for the ceremonial occasions, a woman who has never yet donned a uniform and commandeered an aircraft carrier as a cheap stunt, with a working, coalition government doing all the tough stuff in the background.

And, most important of all, when you see pictures of Queen Elizabeth or New Zealand's Governor General Dame Silvia Cartwright at leisure, neither of them is ever holding a chainsaw. They have mastered the art of relaxation without destruction. They have fun without killing anything. It seems to me that that's worth rewarding.

More importantly, in 2002, New Zealand spent a tiny 1% of their GDP on military expenditures. I think the leader of the free world should be more interested in barley than bullets.

Think about it. Corruption at the ballot boxes, selling out the government to the corporations at the expense of the planet and the people, tax cuts for the rich paid for by the poor, the aged, and the infirm, cutting back on social programs to fund mass slaughter of poverty-stricken people the third world, etc., etc., etc..

I think we've pretty much run our course as the shining beacon of hope for the world. It's time to let someone else, some more civilized country, take up the torn for a century or so.

I am totally on hiatus. But I'm also disgusted with the voters who are selling out this country's birthright for the dubious comfort provided by a simple-minded yokel mouthing meaningless and untruthful platitudes.

I am very angry today.

Posted by AnneZook at 04:44 PM


Anne! I just discovered your blog, and I like you! Don't go!

And don't be too sure it was us. It could be "them."



Posted by: Chris Bridges Roys at November 5, 2004 08:33 PM

News flash: the country that leads the world isn't chosen on the basis of how much they love puppies or care about socialized medicine. The country that leads the world is the one that has the power to do so. While I'd love to see us step down from the role voluntarily, that would throw China into the driver's seat. And I'd like to think we can still agree that America is a better choice for that role than China, though, perhaps not.

Posted by: Andrew at November 9, 2004 04:53 PM

You have this backwards, Anne - you hand-count the ballots first, as the official tally. Then you compare the count to both the exit polls and the machine count as a backup verification method.

And, no, it doesn't take days to do it. It gets done in the same night, because they are counted by volunteers right there where people voted, in front of the public - cameras, crowds watching, the whole nine yards. No toting bags of ballots around to get "lost", no worrying about how officials from the party campaigns will mess around with them, no locking anything up where people can't see.

Only in bright, shiny, modern, high-tech America does it take three days to count ballots.

No "receipts". Receipts are not ballots; if they are issued by a computer, they don't have to say the same thing as what you keyed in - you have no way of knowing that your receipt wasn't printed from a different field than the one where your vote was totalled.

And definitely no receipts that you take away. Taking a receipt home doesn't prove anything, unless you actually have some identifiable number on the ballot that someone can check, which would end up making it traceable to you - in other words, you would lose your secret ballot. The only thing those receipts would be good for would be if they could all be called back for a recout, but it's hard enough getting everyone to vote in the first place let alone getting them all to return their receipts for a recount. You could sit around with all your friends saying, "How did Bush get all those votes when we all voted for Kerry," but that wouldn't prove anything. You don't know all the other thousands of voters and you can't sit down with all of them to compare your receipts. So in the end all you'd know is that you voted the way you think you voted - that is, that you didn't make an error - but most of us already know that anyway. It doesn't tell you whether your vote was actually counted as you keyed it.

Also, no receipts that leave the polling station because it's not just you and your friends who can look at those things. It could also be your employer, who wants proof that you voted for Bush if you want to keep your job. So we have always made sure that no one, not your abusive husband, not your priest, not your boss, and not your neighbors, can ever browbeat you into proving you voted the way they wanted you to. What you did remains in the privacy of the voting booth, because that's the only way to protect your vote.

Paper ballots, hand-counted immediately and in public, is the only way to do it.

And I sure wish you weren't giving up blogging. I miss you.

Posted by: Avedon at November 17, 2004 05:49 AM

Avedon - You're right, of course. First, count the actual ballots, then use the other items for back-up verification.

My idea about "receipts" was so that each citizen who wanted one would have a paper verification of their vote, but your idea of having immediate, public ballot-counting would make that irrelevant.

I miss me, too. :) At least, I miss blogging. Hardly a day goes by when I don't think of something I could be ranting about but I think a break (at the very least) was definitely in order.

Posted by: Anne at November 17, 2004 10:12 AM