Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Take this vote and suppress it

So I went to the voting place today (which, of course, was in a car dealership, because that's where we vote, duh) and, of course, had to vote on an electronic voting machine. Despite the eerie sight of one of these machines being broken (which slowed down the line a lot), I, unfortunately, was not disenfranchised.

California's voting machines are very different from the ones you've heard about that have caused all of the paranoia. You can verify your vote (both on screen and on paper) something like five times, and when you're done, a giant receipt-like strip of paper scrolls past off to your left like it's running a price check on your vote or something. Then, your vote is recorded to a card that looks like a hotel room key, and you take it to the election officials (who, presumably, give you a credit on your voting machine for giving the card back).

Then you get a sticker that says I VOTED ELECTRONICALLY.

Now, there are a lot of people out there who really, truly believe that the Republicans (or Democrats, I guess, all prior evidence to the contrary) are behind a giant conspiracy to rig elections (though tonight would seem to argue against the Republicans are either supremely canny or not involved in vote rigging at all). They'll argue that the good folk at Diebold are going in, as are political operatives, to voting places and changing the results through secret programming magic. Now, obviously, the machines make this possible (and by not releasing its source code, Diebold at least looks very SUSPICIOUS), but, really, how many people do you have to keep quiet in a scenario like this? It just doesn't make any sense.

Obviously, there has been voter suppression in the last string of elections (and you can read those stories and feel about them however you like), but that suppression has taken a legal stand and has been completely out in the open. It's far easier to play this off as "no big deal," after all. Real, meaningful election reform would close up these legal loopholes, rather than chase after conspiracies.

That said, the real reason I don't think that the voting machines will ultimately prosper has to do with the fact that information is so free right now. How hard would it be for an enterprising Diebolder to leak corporate memos to the Internet? And if your vote was being suppressed this go-round, you were encouraged to take photos of said action happening with your cell phone camera. Your cell phone camera! How would someone have proved their vote was suppressed in the 1850s? By explaining their side of the story? I'll take my cell phone camera, thank you very much.

Against all of our efforts, democracy marches on. And a lot of that is despite technology. But even more of that is thanks to technology.

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