March 10, 2006

Fear and Loathing at the polling place

I just voted. It felt good, as always, but it was the first time I've voted using a touch-screen unit.

It's daunting, even for someone who's pretty computer literate. I predict enormous problems and slow-downs come election day, especially for anyone who's never dealt with computers or touch-screen displays. I simply can't imagine what a mess it will be in the general election when turn-out is much higher.

I would imagine that the election judges will have to go to assist at least half, if not 3/4 of the voters to help them get through the process at least for the first time. Knowing how many people have problems with the punch card system, I don't even want to think about how tough introducing this stuff is going to be.

The first gauntlet you must pass is having the election workers take your information and enter it into some computer, and then a printout is produced. Another machine then spits out a credit card like thing imprinted with your information on a magnetic strip, which they hand to you.

You then go over to this little gizmo and face a screen around 12 x 10" The first screen shows a page of instructions. They're well done thankfully, and you can go back to them at any time in the process.

Next you're shown what looks like a blown up version of the normal ballot. Older people or those with sight problems will like the fact that it's in pretty large type.

You then simply touch a box next to your selection and it fills in an X for you and you move to the next race.

Then when that page is completed, you have to press a "next" button at the bottom, which shouldn't be a problem as it's a big green arrow. I assume most people will get past at least that part.

But at the end after several pages, is the verification process, and that's where the hang-ups will occur.

At this point, you can display your ballot choices for review, and you have to scroll through them to view them (Some people won't know how to do this). There's some instructions on the side telling voters how they can go back and change any of their votes. (the poll worker told me that you simply touch another square and it automatically removes your old vote and places your new one.)

After you're done reviewing your vote, which for some elderly people might take half a day, you can move on. But you're not done yet, and this is the part that almost hung me up -- reviewing the paper record of your vote.

To the right, there's the equivalent of a grocery store receipt tape and it's under a little door thing. You lift the door, and there's a clear plastic window through which you can view the tape.

On the tape is a record of your votes. The only problem is that this window isn't long enough to show all your votes, so you have to find a button on the screen to scroll it forward a little, which it does, then you have to press it again, and then again, until all your ballot has been printed and scrolled up for review.

I'm not certain, but I think it's at this point where you finally push the "submit ballot" button (or something like that) and it records your vote and imprints something on your little voter's card. You're then instructed to remove the card and return it to the poll worker.

The system isn't bad. It's pretty slick actually. But introducing it for the first time to people, in particular the elderly, is going to be a very tough process.

And as always, these DiBold machines are a mess as far as security measures go and I simply don't trust them to be as secure as older voting measures.

Hackers have demonstrated that they can get access to programming codes and shown how the system can be gamed and altered at any number of steps along the way, in order to allow a person to vote multiple times, switch votes, count only every other vote, or any number of ways to tamper with the results. At least the system I used actually provides a paper record of each vote, though the security of those tapes must be ensured as well.

Touch-screen voting is apparently the way it's going to be into the foreseeable future, and we can only hope that the vendors are responsive to security holes and that our clerk's office is aggressive in fixing them as they're found.


At 3/10/2006 4:05 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

did you vote for mowen or zinga?

huff or grchan?

jacobs or rumler?

At 3/10/2006 4:08 PM, Blogger The Inside Dope said...

I cast a write-in vote for you for every office. On the question of supporting Black Hawk college, I didn't vote because you weren't one of the choices.

At 3/10/2006 5:16 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I can see where some people may have a hard time figuring out the digital display and touch screen but from what I was told when I voted early,is that the Touch screens will only be used for the ADA folks at the various polling places. There will be a paper ballot at the polling places so it will be almost the same as last election, filling in the oval.

Off Topic: The dissusion threads for all the various candidates are not coming up when you click on the link provided under the candidates names. Not sure if there is a problem, but I was unable to access them earlier and it is still this way.

At 3/10/2006 5:21 PM, Blogger The Inside Dope said...

Thanks for the heads up, but please, in the future, contact me in e-mail for any technical problems. I've had several people continuing to write things about the blog in general via comments, which is not the place to send them. I'm not going to take up comment space to have an off-topic conversation about technical or other things about the blog within a comment string.

For future reference, please use e-mail for anything other than comments directly about the topic of the post.

At 3/10/2006 5:31 PM, Blogger The Inside Dope said...

In the same line, I recently got this in a comment:

"I don't like to participate because I have trouble reading the word verification and have to do it several times. Most times I get discouraged and just stop. Should be interesting for me at the polls then. Are there instructions for write-ins? I want to vote for you!"

I'm aware that the word verification thing can be tough. But also, after you've done it a while, you get better at it.

It changes the words every so often, so if it happens to change when you're writing a comment, you need to simply go to the bottom and type in the new string of letters.

You don't need to retype your comment, just plug in the new string of letters.

Don't give up... we want to hear what you have to say.

The person also mentioned getting lots of pop-ups. I'm very sorry to hear this is a problem. I myself have never gotten any, so I'm not sure how or if I can do anything about it. I've had a helpful reader send me a shot of one of the pop ups he'd gotten and I wrote that place to see how they're placing their pop up ads to try to determine whether they're coming from this blog or the sites that people come here from, but have gotten no response.

Other than that, I can only recommend downloading Googles toolbar for your browser which includes a very handy pop-up blocking utility.

If you need any help doing this, contact me via e-mail.

Now do you see why comments are not the way to communicate with me directly? E-MAIL people. It's simple as hell.

At 3/10/2006 5:37 PM, Blogger The Inside Dope said...

Anon 17:16. Found the problem and fixed it. Thanks for the catch.

At 3/10/2006 5:47 PM, Blogger moline83 said...

Dope, I also voted early. I didn't notice how to vote write-in. Was there some kind of pen or do you type in the name? btw... I am also getting the pop-ups.

At 3/10/2006 5:59 PM, Blogger The Inside Dope said...

First off, I'm very sorry to hear about the pop-ups. At the moment, I don't know that I can do anything about it as it's out of my control.

All I can do is suggest you download and install the google toolbar gizmo which I use and which blocks pop-ups in an effective way.

You can get it HERE

You raise an interesting question about the write-in thing. I too wondered about that.

It does have a box that you can check (or touch) to indicate you want to do a write in for that race.

After you do that, I'm not sure what the proceedure is. Perhaps someone from the clerks office or someone who has experience with this can fill us in.

I would imagine that touching the write-in choice might bring up a screen which allows you to write in a name using a stylus type thing, though I'm not sure.

At 3/11/2006 1:58 PM, Blogger maybesomeday said...

I hope that I can use the pen and paper method as before. I don't feel the touch screens are very secure.

At 3/11/2006 11:54 PM, Blogger highxlr8r said...

I am comfortable withthe touch screen voting, as it has to come around sometime, and as younger generations grow older and get their act together voting, they will not have much difficulty with it. But by the time they are senior citizens there may be a whole new kind of system to get used to, "DNA" voting, or something. :-)

At 3/12/2006 7:37 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Did you cast your vote for Senator Jacobs?

At 3/12/2006 8:49 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Who are you asking?

If you're asking me, I wouldn't vote for Jacobs if someone had a gun to my head --- which they might do, from what I've seen, if they thought they could get away with it.

At 3/13/2006 9:33 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

That is a horrible thing to say.

At 3/13/2006 11:17 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yes it is. It makes me wonder what is wrong with you? Are you okay?


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