Comments: Ballots

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