Remember all those lines, way back on election day, way back when Kerry still seemed to be a shoe-in? Remember those three-, four-, five-, eight-hour lines? Heck, even my measly hour and twenty-minute wait was annoying. Remember those election-stalling computer crashes, those polling places with hundreds of voters and only four or five machines? It turns out, there’s an easy, cheap way to get rid of all of them: Have people write their choices on paper ballots.
Even assuming computerized machines are accurate (a dubious claim), they are disenfranchising voters simply because they are slow. They’re so expensive that precincts can’t afford enough of them to handle large turnouts, ergo, long lines. There’s no telling how many people left voting lines (or simply turned around and headed home when they saw the lines) or whether this phenomenon affected the overall vote, but regardless, this was a problem that simply shouldn’t have existed.
When people are already quick to make excuses about how their vote won’t matter, why give them yet another one? The 2000 election suddenly made an issue of accuracy, and so polling places made a special effort this time around to be more accurate, what with all the computer voting, the more careful supervision of the vote. Lost in all this effort was the realization that the resulting long lines were probably a bigger problem.
With paper ballots, the whole issue would have disappeared. There would be no limit to the number of people voting at once. For voters wishing for privacy, cheap cardboard screens could be placed on folding tables. If there was a shortage of screens, voters in a hurry could fill their ballots in public.
Optical scanning technology has advanced to the point where accuracy in counting paper ballots is no longer an issue, and the existence of the physical ballots themselves ensures the opportunity for a real recount if needed.
There ought to be national standards for voting — enforced by a constitutional amendment, if necessary. No one should be forced to choose between going to work and voting, or caring for a child and voting. Voting can and should be quick, easy, and accurate for everyone. Unfortunately, it looks like for voting, as for everything else, we’re about to get four more years of “more of the same.”