Why are the voting machines even touch screen?

To me, voting is punch cards (although the machines look neat too). My county got rid of punch cards the year I started voting. :frowning:

I don’t see how this solves any problem. Votes pokes “Obalemon”, machine erroneously racks up a vote for “Romford”, prints out same. Nobody notices until sometime later, by which time there’s no way to refute that. How does this kind of “paper trail” help?

ETA: See [post=15668528]Post #13[/post] by control-z above. Machine already displays a confirmation screen showing voter’s choices, for voter to confirm. And voters still apparently sometimes fail to notice mistakes.

I have voted multiple times with the old machines where you push down little levers to indicate your vote for each office or ballot measure. In fact, I’m fairly sure I used one as recently as 2000 (in New York City). They were pretty cool. Fun fact: there were special levers you could use to easily vote a “straight ticket”–it would depress all the Republican levers, or Democratic, or what have you.

In California we use Ink-A-Vote, which I think is what others are describing–you black out little bubbles, the ballot get scanned, but there is a paper trail. They even give you a numbered receipt for your ballot though I’m not sure what good that does.

Yesterday, we had a machine we had to shutdown halfway through the day. At first, it froze and the rubber push buttons would do nothing. We rebooted, voted a couple of voters sucessfully, then it started this number: You vote for the democrat in one race, and you would get the republican along with it in the race listed underneath. Couldn’t get around it. I figured out the voter wanted straight ticket, so we did that and defeated that problem. But in a non-partisan school board race where you chose two, you automatically got your second candidate picked for you when you chose the first. Had to move the voter to another machine. Machine only had about 55 votes on it, but I’m not sure they all got counted. It was a microvote machine with the rubber toggle buttons for your choices.

I’ve only ever voted in Texas but always at a different pollong place. I’ve only ever used a certain type of machine. It’s a computer monitor but it has a wheel and two buttons to scroll through the choices. Never seen a touch screen.

I use scantrons and a good percentage don’t work because students treat them poorly. True, the voters would only have them in their hands for five minutes, but I wouldn’t be surprised if they found a way to make it unscannable.

The setup I’ve used since at least 2008: vote on a touch screen, you can go back and change answers, but push continue at the end. Next to the screen there is a plastic window, with a roll of register tape behind it. When done, it prints everything to it, and asks if your responses match your vote. I bet a significant number of people don’t bother, but it does allow for oversight.

I almost clicked to type “Cite?” but scrolled to see two Dopers had beat me to it. :cool:

The American right-wing: So completely uninterested in facts that reality and fantasy are now interchangeable to them.

We had the choice to vote electronically this year, but there was only one machine which I didn’t care to wait for. So I just did the paper ballot - complete the center of the arrow with a black felt pen, then feed into the scanner - and was on my way. I couldn’t see the electronic ballot machine, but it seemed like the person was touching the screen. I’m not convinced it was any faster or more secure. Definitely less paper, though.

The difference is that electrons that disappear are gone for good. At least with a paper ballot choice print out, the choices are there in black and white. If people fail to notice mistakes, there’s nothing you can do about that.

What you can do is reduce clutter. a printout ballot would have ONE name for president, not 2 or 3 or more. "FOR PRESIDENT → BARACK OBAMA <bar code> " One name for senator; one name for congress; one choice for dogcatcher, etc. Remove the clutter, the 10 page ballot with explanations, and it’s a heck of a lot easier to look at and verify.

of course, in some places, simplicity is not the aim.

You have to say this in Fat Bastard’s voice, but the answer is ‘because they are sexy’. They look modern, and people also are used to using touch screens now, so it’s got a smaller learning curve.

We use the fill in the oval and then run it through a scanner voting machines here, and they work well enough (we had a few problems with older people either not being able to fill in the bubbles correctly or needing assistance doing so), but over all, from the standpoint of easy of use and reliability it’s hard to beat. However, it does cost more both front loaded and on the back end. Some of the basic reasons are that all those paper ballots need to be moved to the central voting site for the county, city or district, and in a lot of cases you need to have observers and police involved. Then they need to be sealed and locked up until you verify whether or not an automatic recount is necessary. Then they need to be stored long term (a lot of our counties store them until the next election, some store them 2 years). Then they need to be disposed of. All of that takes continuing resources and can be a huge pain in the ass.

Believe it or not, the touch screen machines are supposed to be more reliable.
Mechanical buttons that have to be pushed, or levers that have to be pushed down, will occasionally not work correctly.

Also the touch screens are supposed to be easy to reprogram and reset for the next election. Not an issues usually, but if you have a runoff or something, it may be within a few weeks.

What I remember is that people in general wanted a more modern voting method that didn’t have the problems that the punch cards did. (The punch cards were used in many states at the time, including California.) The opposition to electronic voting came later, after the first electronic machines were introduced, I think in the 2002 midterm elections.

In Alamada County, California, there was one election in which electronic machines were used, then they were abandoned and since then it’s always been a scanned paper ballot.

The 2008 Minnesota senatorial election showed the unique limitations of fill-in-the-oval paper ballots, including overvotes and ambiguous marks. I’m not saying that that’s necessarily enough reason to go electronic, just that paper is not trouble-free.

Here in PA judgeships are partisan offices just like any other, complete with primaries. At least we don’t have page after page of ballot measures every election like in some states. Voting in my county consists of filling out paper ballots with a blue pen, then dropping them in a big metal box. This year the ballots came with detachable reciepts.

That machine exists, it’s called the ESS AutoMark (http://www.essvote.com/HTML/products/automark.html). It operates as an electronic voting machine, with view screens & audio prompts, and then prints out a ballot that has the bubbles filled in for the voters choices, but is otherwise identical to human-filled-in ones. The voter then takes that and feeds it through the same scanner just like all the other voters. In Minneapolis, Minnesota, we have one of them at every polling place, primarily for use by blind voters or other handicapped voters.

But it’s far from ideal:[ul][li]it’s very expensive.[/li][li]it weighs a lot and so is hard to transport.[/li][li]it takes up a lot of space.[/li][li]it’s much slower to use.[/li][li]and only 1 person at a time can use it.[/li][li]it breaks down more often, and voting stops then.[/li][li]it stops working if the power goes off. (Unlike the paper-and-pen ballots. We once had the electricity go off at a polling place on election day; people kept voting, filling out their paper ballots by candlelight. (It was in a church basement, candles were readily available.) When the power came back on a couple hours later, the poll workers just fed the accumulated ballots thru the scanner.)[/li][/ul]

It’s probably the best of the electronic voting machines, but the paper-and-pen system is better. This can be used in conjunction with that system, for disabled voters.

What it does NOT allow for is recounts.
Or at least, recounts that are not prohibitively expensive, slow, and error-prone. I doubt that anyone has ever done a sizable recount of these machines.

These ‘cash-register’ receipts are small print & hard to read (even harder if the machine runs low on ink). And this receipt is not printed in a standard format, but one that varies depending on which candidate the person voted for (and which offices they skipped). So doing a recount requires one person to read the receipt tape, locate the office in question, read out loud the voters’ choice, while another person marks it down. (Realistically, each of these would probably have to be multiple people – one person from each candidate.) Chances for error are the reader reading the wrong race, or saying the wrong name out loud, or the writer making a mark under the wrong name. Errors are quite possible, especially as these people get tired after doing this all day.

By contrast, the paper-and-pen ballots can be quickly recounted by just running them through the scanner again. Or a different scanner, or several different ones. The scanner can be adjusted to kick out any unclear ballots for human inspection. And the final option, skip the scanner entirely and have the whole recount done by humans. I participated when we did that in Minnesota (twice), we did about 3 million ballots in 16 days, and only 1,325 (.0004%) challenges had to be decided by the judges of the State Canvassing Board.


Pet peeve. It’s stupid GUI (graphic user interface) designs. A well designed touch screen can easily eliminate any possible “calibration” errors, as well as be much faster than pen / pencil and paper, be quicker to tally and have even less possibility of mistakes.

As evidence, ATMs throughout the country don’t rely on paper scanning. Airlines now do most of their check-in on touch screen kiosks. It can be done.

You can only protect people from their own mistakes so much. At least with a paper trail of this type, you can prove that the voter made the error, and that well-intentioned voters who conscientiously follow directions don’t get their votes invalidated or flipped by an intervening third party.

Sure, but you can protect the voters from some mistakes with electronic ballots.

I don’t see how this is true. Overvotes and stray marks could be added by anybody in the review process. As with electronic ballots, it’s just a question of how much security there is in the review.

In the 2008 election, voting machines had the potential to cause serious bodily harm. There is video footage of one of these mishaps (extremely gruesome images, viewer discretion is advised):