Voting Problems

Technology Review has an interesting article up about voting problems. The short version of the article is pretty simple. All the fancy technology in the world won't save you from the people using it. The article discusses that many of the innovative voting machines in use end up being less reliable because of the procedures used. The author concludes that inadequate training is a big problem.

Well, duh. Please keep in mind J and I run local elections. Actually, she runs them, I tote boxes. J gets a couple more hours of training before the election than I do. Every time, we go to a class on the voting machines with J's mom, who works with us as a clerk. The class is supposed to take 2 hours. All the class covers is how to actually use the machines. No content is devoted to the actual procedures of the election. J goes to that class by herself. So we're talking a grand total of maybe 4 hours of training for the precinct judge. The alternate judge would get the same amount of training if he would show up for it. So let's sum up how much training goes on: a grand total of 12 hours. 4 for J, 4 for the donk alternate, 2 for me, 2 for J's mom.

We have 9 people working our precinct. 12 hours of training total for 9 people. Yeah, that sounds pretty damn inadequate to me.

Another issue is amply demonstrated by our alternate judge. He's been working elections since I was about 5 years old. If he doesn't see the point in a procedure or it's too inconvenient, he simply won't do it. I can't speculate as to how many people like him work elections in this state, but I'll guess a lot. 7 bucks an hour doesn't buy you a lot of effort or caring in my experience. If you have to rely on volunteers, you can't design elaborate complex procedures. They either get screwed up or ignored.

Reading between the lines, I notice his solution is to make the process more complex. First he complains about long lines and poor training, then wants to slow the process down and make it more confusing. Everything should be done in pairs! No-one should touch a ballot without a witness! No pencils! Three teams to carry ballots to counting locations! Good luck with that. I really hope it works out for you somewhere in that far-off place where everything goes perfectly. In the meantime, the rest of us will have to muddle through as best we can.

I'll reiterate my comments about elections in Texas. Don't be surprised it doesn't work as well as you think it should. Be grateful it works at all.


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