I pit America for awful voting systems

Arguments about voter registration and vote counting systems make me crazy. How can we possibly suck so bad at this?

All the legitimate votes should be counted and no illegitimate votes should be counted. Everyone who can legally vote should be registered. The people who run the elections should be punished for every legit vote they miss and every false vote they count. People should be punished for not registering to vote. Local governments should be punished for not getting everyone registered. The vote count in every election should be correct to within ten votes.

If we can’t get this right, then America, YOU FAIL AT DEMOCRACY.

That’s a great rant in a perfect world, but we don’t live in a perfect world. Life is a messy things, and there are a lot of cracks that can be fallen into. Suppose someone falls into a grey area… Do they get to vote? Your answer largely depends on your party affiliation, and is not necessarily wrong either way.

So, how do we do it without determining who can and who cannot legally vote? Some people will inevitably be disenfranchised, nothing has an error rate of zero. Do we do it with paper ballots, both inherently wasteful and notoriously variable? Do we do it with computers (eminently hackable)?

There is no easy way to get millions of people to vote. There is no way at all to get every eligible person to vote. How should we punish them for not voting? Fines? Jail time? We can’t even get red light cameras right, imagine getting a fine for not voting.

Your frustration is understandable, but your ideas are unworkable.

I’ve said this before, and I’ll say it again.

I fail to understand how we can trust ATM machines with our money, yet we can’t improve the technology of voting.

I’ve NEVER gotten the wrong amount of money from an ATM. Never had one get a transaction wrong. I’m sure it happens here and there, but never to someone I know or have heard of.

Why can’t we come up with a voting machine that works similarly?

Well, we could. I’m sure, in fact, that we have. I seriously doubt that these programs do anything other than exactly what they’re designed to do.

Thing is, people don’t howl when you fuck with their vote quite as loud as they do when you fuck with their money. They should, but they don’t.

I’m about to tell you how it works in my country, Sweden. This is NOT my way of saying that you Americans should do this the same way.

But it seems to work very well and is rarely contested.

  1. Any person eligible to vote will get a “voter’s card” sent by mail some months before the general election.
  2. This will be sent to the registered address (according to our version of I.R.S.) of said person.
  3. The card will say where one can cast a vote (typically a school, since elections are always held on a Sunday).
  4. Voter shows up, shows the card, leaves the card and get the name stricken in a big ledger.
  5. Voter goes in booth, picks a ballot, stuffs in envelope.
  6. Voter comes out of booth, envelope is put in a big urn.
  7. When voting is cloes (8 p.m.), urn is broken and ballots are counted .

Election results are usually done by 10 p.m.

Of course, being a small country, one could argue that this wouldn’t apply on as large a country as the U.S.
Then again, I bet the precincts are about the same size. There are just a lot more of them in hte U.S. Also, the U.S. sytem is pretty straight forward as compared to ours, since aour elections are proportional. That is - each district gets a certain number of (for lack of better description) MPs and the election is a race for those seats.

The way this election is going, you guys won’t call a winner this side '08.

Tell me about it…

You know, I’ve always said, if you wanna figure out how to do something, see how they do it in Scandinavia. You can laugh, but you guys generally have some commonsensical approaches to your problems.

Although I’m not entirely sure that you guys have the same size districts that we do. Although there’s no reason to think we couldn’t do so.

Here in New York State we vote on these huge machines with switches and a lever. You may call it old-fashioned, and I think people want to get rid of them, but they are actually quite good. You walk into the booth and flip switches for whom you want to vote. When you’re done deciding everything you pull a lever to register your vote. At the end the poll workers come by and write down the votes registered on the counters.

These are pretty hard to tamper with. First you’d have to find out some way to get inside these machines, and secondly you’d have to know the inner workings and have engineered some kind of way to cheat it before going in. Any board of elections can keep these machines safe.

Yet because they are old ( somehow several decade’s worth of excellent service is seen as a bad thing ) they have been replaced in many places. I don’t really understand why everyone doesn’t use them. So now you have places like Ohio that replaced theirs for electronic voting machines that are vulnerable to hacking (which requires a type of knowledge much more common) and many even contain USB ports even though they were never supposed to. Hell, at the very least they could separate the physical machines from the screens which could be in the booths.

That’s what we need, really.

The problem with these voting machines is that they presuppose skill sets and industries that just no longer exist in this country. NYS has been keeping these mechanical machines working by buying the condemned machines from other states that have been ahead of the game in modernizing, and using them for parts.

And even so, keeping these machines in working has been a huge uphill battle, and getting harder, and more expensive, as people with necessary skills in keeping the mechanical systems working retire, or die. And no matter how important voting may be, there’s just not enough business involved with these machines to support the whole parts and machining and maintenance industry that would be needed to support them.

I’m very sorry that this will be the last election that they are used. But I completely understand the necessity that requires their replacement.

You know what the largest manufacturer of ATMs is don’t you? Diebold.


Is there more than one item to be voted on at a time on the ballot? In this election, on my California ballot, it’s not just the president I’m voting on. There are 23 separate items to be voted on. It’s hard to design a manual system that can handle a ballot that complicated.


The problem with the American electoral system is not the method of tallying votes, which I’m sure is very rarely tampered with and has not affected the outcome of a major election. The problem is that the first-past-the-post system is simply inadequate at fairly representing the wishes of the American people. (Ask Ross Perot/H.W. Bush or Nader/Gore.)

We need a preferential system.

Vox Imperatoris

Well, yes. We vote town, region and national at the same time. Of course, stuffing 23 envelopes seems a bit cumbersome, but how do you guys do it? 23 different boots? A boot with 46 levers? A touch screen with a multiple choice quiz? I’m not snarky, just curious how to work 23 different ballots.

We’re gearing up to voting from home, using the 'Net. We can already file taxes by texting and using the 'Net, so voting is the next step.

Just one ballot with 23 different items to vote on. For each item, you draw a line completing an arrow for the one you want to vote for. An optical scanner reads the final ballot.


I am using the mail-in ballot method of voting. “Fill in the bubble” optical scan. Plenty of room on the ballot for all of the things I need to vote on, from the Presidential race, to state wide issues (California Prop 8, for example), to town issues (Mayor, school bonds, water district manager, etc.).

Sheez you socialists.

So behind on the times! :stuck_out_tongue:

But our ballots are the same I’m sure. When I used to vote in Mississippi we had to fill in bubbles on a sheet. In New York the machine has a bank of switches and the lever is the one that records them all at once.

I didn’t know that about the NYS voting machines. What a shame.

Yes it’s true that Diebold does make a lot of the ATMs but the CEO also promised to deliver Ohio for Bush in 2004. Kind of shitty to hear. I’m not suspecting foul play, but it doesn’t smell good.

I don’t like not having paper trails. We need to have a backup paper trail with a limited, random audit (post-election), to check to make sure that they jibe. How hard would that be? Stick with these ridiculous electronic thingies, but have the voters also stuff a paper printout in a box. Then check a random sample of those to make sure there is no foul play

I like the Oregon system–everything is vote-by-mail. The SoS knows how many registered voters there are, knows how many ballots are sent out and how many come back in. The inner security envelope has a scan line identifying the recipient and we have to sign the envelope, so we have a paper trail with a signature for every ballot. Drop boxes are set up at all the election offices and at every public library if you don’t have stamps, don’t trust snail mail or just prefer to take care of it yourself. We have at least two weeks before election day to decide how we want to vote and can get together with friends to have discussions of various ballot measures and get more information to help us vote informedly. The ballots are taken from the inner signed envelopes and tallied against the list of mailed out ballots and the envelopes are kept as a paper trail. The scantron ballots are loaded into trays for counting starting when the polls close at 2000 on Election Day, and the count is generally finished in a couple of hours. The only downside is the paper required to support all this, but if we loosened restrictions on growing hemp for fiber even that wouldn’t be a downcheck. Why this isn’t done nationwide, I do NOT know! No long poll lines, no dodgy electronic machines of dubious programming security, no preference towards the rich–everybody has an equal playing field to exercise the franchise.

The paranoid have the simple and cheap option of photocopying their ballot and signed inner envelope if it ever came down to a result that seems dodgy, but so far in about ten years I’ve heard not even a breath of scandal. Simple is good–let’s do it this way nationwide!

When I make a withdrawal from an ATM, I can count the cash myself. I also get a transaction receipt that should indicate the amount of my withdrawal and my available balance. If I want to check a day or two later, I can go online and check my withdrawal records. Several days later, I’ll receive a statement that indicates my current balance along with all my transactions for the past month. If I find a discrepancy anywhere along the line, I have the opportunity to protest it.

After I use an electronic voting machine, it’s done. I have no way of tracking my vote to make sure it gets recorded correctly.

After you vote with a mechanical ballot, how do you make sure your vote is recorded properly?

Agreed. Check out the FairVote.

The problem with this is that in the U.S., people do not have a “registered address” or anything close to it. Many people have multiple addresses, either temporarily or permanently.

Two common examples would be university students and military service members. Both groups have their “hometowns” and their current addresses, and can legitimately consider either to be their primary address for voting purposes. For instance, if a soldier orignally from New York is stationed in Georgia, it wouldn’t be fair to require him to vote in Georgia as he may consider himself a New Yorker who is just temporarily out of state in service to his country. On the other hand, the soldier may have enlisted to get the hell out of New York, and may consider Georgia to be his new home (or perhaps his new home of the moment), and be much more interested in and informed about Georgia issues, so it wouldn’t be fair to prohibit him from voting in Georgia, particularly as he may be a career service member who hasn’t returned to New York in 20 years.

There are plenty of more examples of people who, for whatever reason, don’t have a single permanent, registered or fixed address. Moreover, even people with a single residence may move, and there is no central (or really other) registry of where they live. I have known plenty of people who have moved to New York, but have not bothered to change their prior state drivers licenses until they expired, and even then have sometimes renewed them when they were back in their hometowns for the holidays and the like. Similarly, if there were some sort of registry like that, there would be plenty of people who would want to have registered addresses other than where they actually spent most of their time for reasons good, bad and neutral (how many people have we known who “officially” lived in one place but who actually spent every night with their girl/boyfriend).

So, people in the U.S. get to register to vote voluntarily where they consider their residence to be. That means that there will always be questions of whether people are actually legitimate voters. There will likewise always be a balance between making it easy for potential voters to register so that every vote may be cast and making it difficult so that those with marginal claims to eligiblity in a particular district may be weeded out.