Charles Engelke's Blog

March 2, 2004

Voting in Georgia

Filed under: Personal — Charles Engelke @ 12:50 pm

I just voted electronically here in Macon, Georgia this morning. I
left the polling place quite upset, and with little confidence in the
process. First, the smart card I was given was programmed incorrectly,
and didn’t include the Democratic presidential preference primary. When
I reached the end of the ballot without seeing that race I complained,
and the pollworkers came over and examined the screen. So much for a
secret ballot. They then pressed the “Cast Vote” button over my
protests, saying that they would void the vote later. I then got a
correctly programmed smart card and voted again.

So did I vote twice? I never saw my first vote “voided”. Did I vote
at all? If they could void my first vote without my seeing it, couldn’t
they void my second vote? Maybe the poll workers didn’t like how I
voted on the other ballot questions and didn’t want my vote to count;
after all, they saw my filled out first ballot.

Every other aspect of our voting process here in Georgia has a paper
trail and checks and balances. The voter has to fill out a paper
application for a ballot, which a poll worker then checks against a
picture ID. After that check, the application is given to a different
poll worker, who checks that the voter appears in the printed registry
for that precinct. If it’s okay, the poll worker marks that name in the
registry in ink. A separate poll worker writes the name down on a
different piece of paper, listing all the voters in the order they
arrived. Finally, a fourth poll worker gives the voter a ballot (it
used to be a paper ballot that would later be scanned, now it’s a smart
card that the final poll worker programs just before distributing
it).

After all those independent checks and balances, I then cast a vote
on a machine with no human verifiable paper trail. I can’t see whether
I’ve been given the correct ballot until I put it in the machine and
start to vote. And apparently any vote cast can be voided after the
fact by the poll worker that takes my smart card at the end of the
process.

Sure, the machines may be broken, buggy, or compromised, which is
bad enough. But if the machines are perfect, this process can’t be
trusted. The last poll worker in the chain has far too much control
over the content of the ballot and disposition of the vote, and the
voter can’t check either of those things with his own eyes.

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