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Tuesday, November 02, 2004

Voting Report

I voted this morning in reddest Houston.

Based on reports on numerous blogs, I expected long lines (in the rain). But the only person ahead of me was Niles.

I was a bit disappointed. There was no one electioneering, no protestors, no moonbats, nothing. There were about thirty Bush signs, signs for various other candidates, and one lone Kerry, that we saw. I did mention that this was reddest Houston, right?

They checked my voter card and ID; since this is my first time voting here, I brought my passport as well as my driver's license. Can't be too careful.

Every other time I've voted (and this is since 1980), we've used the Hollerith card voting things. That's because, of course, I've only lived in economically deprived areas, like Silicon Valley. This time we used the eSlate, which was fine. It had nice big instructions, which was good because I didn't think of bringing my reading glasses.

Considering that they have all the space in the world to put the instructions on, the ballot was a little confusing. The first screen you come to asks if you want to vote a straight ticket. But if you don't want to do that, what do you do? It doesn't say. Knowing that it's hard to screw up a ballot, I pressed the "next" button, and that turned out to be the right thing.

There's also a "cast ballot" button. You'd think that it would work whenever you were done, but you have to click your way to the end of the ballot, until you see the big red "cast ballot" button on the screen, and then actually push the button. (It's not a touch screen. The "cast ballot" button is actually a big red button.) That's all to the good, I suppose, that you can't accidentally press it, but the way they have it now is a little confusing.

(Of course, if I were designing it, I'd have everything explained in minute detail, and people's eyes would glaze over and they'd never read the instructions.)

Here's a FAQ on the eSlate from Travis County. One of the questions is about the a paper trail in case of challenges. The answer hems and haws a bit before finally getting around to saying that, yes, the eSlate will produce a paper trail. The hemming and hawing makes me suspicious.

I'm not sold on this here now newfangled electronic voting business, especially ones that rely on "ballots" that never were. It's just too easy (in principle) to hack a machine. Even punch card ballots leave an actual card, touched by the voter's own hands. So even if someone has programmed the card reader to falsely record the votes, a machine programmed by a different person will still be able to read the original intentions.

Speaking of ballots, it's worth pointing to this old post of mine, on the occasion of the last election, discussing the film Tuesday in November. Made during the election of 1944, it was intended to educate people overseas about American democracy. It's hard to imagine now, but the State Dept. -- or, in this case, War Dept. -- used to churn out these kinds of things for informational purposes overseas. Or, if you'd rather, to gull them into believing that the US was a real democracy instead of a warmongering fascist plutocracy of oil barons and froth gibber spew...

The actual film, Tuesday in November, is available here. The main image I took from it was of a man marking a paper ballot the size of a newspaper. Must've been unwieldy in the voting booth. Wonder what he'd make of the little eSlate.

(Here's the eSlatesite again. Note that the DAU 5000, for disabled voters, has the following whizbang feature:

Special interfaces for the physically challenged, including head movement switches and "sip and puff" switches (that allow severely physically impaired voters to cast their ballot using only their breath).


We voted in the elementary school just down the street. The room we were in was divided in half, and there were a bunch of kids, apparently eating, at tables on the other side of some dividers. I don't know what the room is normally used for, but paintings on the walls showed a map of the world with several flags, and groups of people in various national costumes, including Australians (I found this amusing for some reason; I gathered this was supposed to represent the nationalities of kids going to the school, at least at one time). But around the top of the room was painted the words and music to -- oh, the horror! -- "It's a Small World"! How can they inflict this terror on tiny, helpless children? Someone call the UN! (Er, well, maybe not. That's probably the UN anthem.)