I know, I know, I’ve mentioned this before, but since the NY Times has an editorial on Paperless Ballots today, I think I’m going to have to go over it one more time.
The Times is perfectly correct to point out that computerized ballots are vulnerable to any number of fraudulent activities, but they are wrong when they suggest that “the solution is to require that each machine produce a paper record that can be inspected and verified by the voter.” This “solution” has many problems. First of all, it requires that polling places buy expensive computers and printing systems just for people to place their votes. If the polling places don’t buy enough computers, we are vulnerable to long lines that send voters home. That vulnerability is compounded when computers crash and printers malfunction. Second, it adds an additional level of complexity to the problem: voters must not only be able to operate the computers, but they also need to be able to check their votes on the paper printout. Poll workers need to be able to correctly program the computers.
Paper ballots can be accurately counted by machine: the technology has been there for years (think SAT test). The record of the vote is the physical item the voter marked. Paper ballots can easily and cheaply accommodate even the largest turnout of voters. The computer is no longer a bottleneck between the voter and the vote. If there is a problem with the computer, instead of spoiling the election, it will simply delay announcing the results.
The only way to ensure a fair election is to adopt a national system requiring paper ballots that are physically filled in by the voters. Get with the program, NYT!