Why, oh why can’t we have paper ballots?

Ed Brayton has posted an astonishing list of the problems found in just one Ohio precinct. They include giving multiple individuals access to the same login to voting machines, so that it’s impossible to determine who’s had access to a particular machine in investigating fraud attempts, having election board members take machines home with them, and malfunctioning printers that are supposed to provide a “paper trail” in cases of fraud.

If this isn’t enough reason to demand serious election reform, Phil Keisling offers his list of the scariest problems with the voting system. As Keisling points out, the problem isn’t so much the machines themselves (though obviously these machines have huge potential for abuse), but with legislation and other measures designed to disenfranchise huge swaths of voters. Number one on Keisling’s list is requiring ID for voters, which disproportionately affects the poor and elderly.

Number two is my number one reason for demanding paper ballots: Precincts and districts with less political influence can be short-changed when high-tech voting equipment is distributed. This means more problems with the few machines they are allocated, and even in the best case, longer lines because not enough machines have been provided. If precincts are inadequately staffed, then the ID problem is compounded, because even if voters have the requisite documentation, the voting process will be delayed, and we’ll see more of the 5-hour lines which hamstrung the 2004 elections.

None of these problems would exist with simple, machine-readable paper ballots. In the worst case scenario, it might take a little longer for votes to be counted, but instead of putting the onus on voters to wait in seemingly interminable lines, everyone can be assured that the election will be fair; we just might have to wait a little longer for the results.

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