I voted for Nixon! (voting then and now)

I vaguely remember the 68 election. Dad was carrying me in his arms, and entered a large curtained booth. He told me what levers to push down, and then pulling a large crank would open the curtains with a nice and satisfying DING!, and all the levers would reset to horizontal.

Ironically, I’m wondering if this isn’t a “better” way of voting with regard to suspicions, however warranted or unwarranted, of electronic, paperless or papered trail voting concerns of fraud or malfunction, etc. I suppose the machines, parts, and people designed to run them are no longer made, and there was considerable pressure to “modernize” voting, nay unto the internet even. (No, I’m not paranoid :dubious:

I just watched Hacking Democracy on HBO last night. When it was over I went to the store and bought all the tin-foil they had and started making the granddaddy of all tin-foil hats. Looks like the fix is in and democracy is a thing of the past.

I recall that in Chicago there were regularly allegations that election judges accompanied voters into the machine to help them make their choices, and that certain machines were either not counted or incorrectly counted. I remember the precinct captains stopping by to give you a sheet showing what the machine should look like after you cast your straight Dem ticket. The good old days.

So I don’t know whether that system was better or worse than today’s, but it certainly wasn’t foolproof.

(Pulling that lever was cool, tho!)

E voting was not really a response to a call to modernize. It is an attempt to overcome difficulties in the Florida election of 2000.

I maintain that those who can’t punch a hole all the way through a piece of paper shouldn’t be allowed to vote. Nor should those who vote for two people for the same office. Nor should those who don’t know enough to ask for a new ballot when they screw up the first one. Nor should those who …

I did a little cursory search on the web and found the design was known as the “Myers Automatic Booth”.

In order to maintain a secret ballot, verifiability and re-countability in close elections, a simple paper ballot that is decoupled from the voter is necessary. A

Can somebody explain why voting in the USA was “modernized” even to the point of having machines with levers? It sounds like a recipe for vote rigging. In the UK we use good old-fashioned ballot papers. You mark an X against the candidate of your choice and put the paper in a box. After the polls close the boxes are collected and the ballots counted (this is all done under constant scrutiny from representatives of all parties). So it takes a few hours, rather than giving an instantaneous result, but who’s in that much hurry? Where did the “pressure” to “modernize voting” come from?

That’s still the way I vote, at least as recently as '04.

Wonder if they’ve changed the machinery for '06 in NY?

I’ve never physically gone to the polls. Last year’s election was the first one I was old enough for, and since I’ve been off at school, I did that one and this one by absentee ballot.

However, even with those, it doesn’t seem like they’re counted by hand- seems more like a scantron sheet to me. If you mark in the bubble incorrectly, it won’t read it. What’s wrong with handcounting?

I thought the voting machines were great fun to work, but they also had some clear advantages over screen voting and even punchcard voting. Mainly, every single issue and person was listed under a lever and you could easily look over the entire array to see if you had voted for everything and everyone, or if you had made a mistake in flipping the wrong one, etc. When you had looked over your entire set of decisions, you pulled the lever, which counted your votes and also opened the curtain behind you. But as I think about it, in some ways, seeing the whole of the ballot in front of you is much like having a book to flip through, as opposed to the screen method. Somehow, the booth is analagous to holding a book in your hand and the screen method is analagous to trying to read a book online. The older folks who grew up on books may have more conceptual difficulties with the new methods compared to those who have grown up reading long tomes and even books on a computer screen.

I have heard it suggested, only half-facetiously I’m sure, that the US could utilize the indelible purple dye on the thumb/fingers similar to what was reported during the Iraqi elections.

My Dad was in politics back then. Here’s how you handled voting booth action for people who a) didn’t speak the language or b) didn’t quite know how this worked:

You paid them the money and you gave them a string with knots in it. In the voting booth they’d take the string out of their pocket and hold the colored end next to some obvious marker that caused the string to hang down the voting levers.
With any luck they’d pull the lever at each knot.
And put the string back in their pocket before opening the curtain.

There’s no need for the purple fingers in the US because we have smoothly working voter registration. They wanted to avoid massive numbers of people turned away because they hadn’t registered correctly. So the purple dye, everyone could vote regardless of voter registration, but only if they weren’t already dyed.

This is not the case in America. Registering to vote is not some dark art here.

That type of voting booth was still used in New York state (at least as of the primary this year) and does an excellent job. They are purely mechanical, and are very hard to use to defraud (there are ways, but nothing that doesn’t show up when they compare the machine totals to the number of people who vote). Counting is simple (open the box when the polls close and jot down the numbers). Any recounts (actually recanvasses) are merely comparing the machine totals (the machines are locked until the elections are certified) to the officially tally sheet.

I have never voted any other way (even when my mother took me into the booth to vote for Stevenson for president), and was surprised to learn back in 2000 that this was standard practice in only a couple of states.

But the mechanical machines were more expensive than punch cards, so most states opted for the latter (they also break down from time to time, but that is mostly a function of their age). The manufacturers went out of business, so when they were revising the law after 2000, there was no one to lobby for them. But they are probably the ideal option: easy to use, dependable, unambiguous as to what the vote is, simple to count, and resistant to fraud.

You mean people with Parkinson’s Disease shouldn’t vote?

(I’m joking, of course, but there’s a slippery slope toward literacy tests.)

I was first in a voting booth in 1972, aged 5, in Syracuse, New York. My mother showed me the levers but, oddly, banished me from the booth before she closed the curtain and voted.

The polling place also had a child-scaled toy set of levers so we little ones could pretend we were voting too. But I take no responsibility for Nixon.

Having moved away from upstate NY shortly after '72, in 2000 I was greatly surprised to see on TV (in footage of Hillary Clinton voting for herself) that the voting booths hadn’t really changed: levers, curtains.

Me too. I guess I’ll see if it’s changed on Tuesday. I strongly distrust computerized voting and if it becomes the norm we should just kiss democracy goodbye. The power is in who controls the computers. Watermarked paper ballots counted by hand would be the absolute best but people want results RIGHT NOW so that’s not going to happen.

Heh, I’m nervous about the upcoming election. Not because I am particularly worried about voting fraud, but because I’m afraid I won’t have studied enough. In Arizona, we have like 20-30 things to vote on, not counting the people running for any offices, including two different smoking bans which both sound silly to me.

So, why is it necessary to maintain a secret ballot anyway? And what if some of us don’t care about that… can we have a non-secret ballot that guarantees our vote is always correctly counted? I’d like to have that choice.

Curtains and levers here on Long Island.

Somebody from the UK asks this question at every US election, so the election procedures must be very different and consistently so.

The answer lies in the multitude of political subdivisions that the US so loves, because it brings government “closer to the people.”

For the coming election people in my area will be voting on some combination of the following offices: governor, lieutenant governor, state attorney general, state comptroller, US Senator, US House Representative, state senator, state assemblyperson, county legislator, city councilperson, school board representative, and several judges at several levels. There may be another dozen local offices in some sites. Many of the offices have boundaries that do not coincide with any other boundaries, so each vote tally must be compiled at what is called the precinct level. Precincts are combined in voting districts, which are then built up to higher offices.

This means that the votes for, say, House Representative, state senator, state assemblyperson, county legislator, family court judge, and city court judge all go to different pots to add up to the totals.

There are only 13 candidates in this light, midterm election. The number can go into the 30s.

Additionally, New York State allows person to run on more than one ballot line, so the votes for the Democrat, Independence, and Working Families lines for state Comptroller also have to be added together, since Alan Hevasi is running on all three.

This is exponentially more complex than adding up X’s. Some mechanization is needed or else elections wouldn’t be decided for weeks. Especially since recounts would happen every single election and double the time needed.

The U.S. is a unique political animal.

Yes, there is a simple explanation. In Canada, England, Australia, and I guess most places that have voting, you vote for one office at a time (or maybe two–in Montreal you cast a vote for mayor and councilman at the same time) and the ballots are counted by hand. In the US, you may well get a ballot with 30 or 40 offices, say president, senator, representative, state senator, state representative, governor, lt. governer, state treasurer, state secretary of state, all sorts of local offices that no same person would think should be elected. No one except the political pros knows anything at about the candidates, but still they get votes that have to be counted. And, oh yes, there are often one or more referendums. It is madness, democracy gone wild.

Off topic somewhat, most of the other countries take it on themselves to register all voters and encourage (or even require) voting. In the US, the whole idea is to make it as hard as possible to vote. In some states, minor errors in the registration will disqualify. In some a criminal record will disqualify you, sometimes permanently, more often until your parole is ended (but officials will scare you to death with what they will do to you if you vote illegally) and the latest ploy is to require photo IDs in order to vote, but place issuing offices outside the large cities. And Ohio, in particular, just restricts the number of voting stations in democratic areas. A friend of mine in Oberline (very liberal and the home of Oberlin College a famously liberal place) had to wait four hours to vote in 2004 and I heard that black areas of Cleveland were even worse.