Whether you're feeling politically elated or intellectually hungover -- or both -- after the weeks of campaigning and last night's outcome, you surely can't have failed to notice that the mechanisms of democracy are increasingly creaky.
From around the country, we heard horror stories of multiple-hour waits to vote. In Colorado, voters who recalled the process taking twenty to thirty minutes in past elections stood in line for two to three hours. This is partly a result of increased voter turnout, which hit a 40-year high in 2008, although it dropped off slightly this year. It might also have something to with increased bureaucracy at the polling stations and a lack of clarity about voter ID laws.
At least we can all be grateful, I think, that the 2012 election wasn't decided in Florida, because last time I looked the margin between the candidates was 0.53 percent, which is perilously close to recount territory. And we all remember what a Florida recount is like.
Surely it's time to bid a fond farewell to this vintage system of booths and ballot boxes? There must be a better way to do this: e-voting, maybe? Imagine a Web page, live for a limited time, where you could register and cast your vote without even getting out of bed. Imagine texting your vote. Imagine instant, real-time tabulation of results, producing a winner the moment the poll closes.
After all, if the world's financial markets conduct millions of complex transactions online, surely the Internet is good enough for something as simple as voting. Sadly, it seems the answer is: not yet.
Why? Viruses could intercept votes on vulnerable computers. Voters could be misdirected to fake polling pages. And above all, voting is anonymous. If your credit card is hacked, you'll find out. If your vote is misappropriated, or just lost, you won't, especially if the system dispenses with a paper trail.
Certainly, the existing systems aren't invulnerable to fraud, or just incompetence, but the main obstacle to e-voting is the perennial problem of trusted identities in cyberspace, compounded by the traditional principle of secret balloting. E-voting wants to square the circle of guaranteeing that you are authentically casting your own vote, while dissociating your identity from the vote cast.
It seems hopeless, but there are some smart people out there, and the demand for a more streamlined approach to balloting is only going to grow.
E-Voting has a lot of problems that haven't quite been solved. One of the biggest problems is that the software that runs most commercial balloting systems is usually closed source and proprietary. I think there should be a requirement for all gov't voting software to be open source -- to make sure that there's no funny business going on in the software....
This should worry the heck out of anyone. Florida is still counting, may not be done until some time in November, and the running results are well within recount range -- candidates separated by about 50,000 votes.
If a Presidential election hangs on Florida again we'll chaos again unless some serious fixing is done.
Seems to me that paper ballots with "fill-in-the-bubble" voting are about as advanced as voting needs to be. What do we really gain from e-voting other than a small bit of convenience? People can already vote absentee and get about the same amount of convenience by voting on paper and returning the results via USPS. Do we really need to vote on smartphones? What problem does that solve without introducing a whole bunch of new problems about security and accountability?
I think voting is one area where I don't see the upside to digitalization just yet.
Romney was trounced by it by a wide margin. Even if the popular vote count were to tip his way, the Democrates would be well within the Constitution to call the election to the President.
Funny how, when this happened to them, they were all over it, crying and wailing! But now it offers protection to their party incumbent. I'm for this present system - it could prevent the kind of election that caused the Weimar Republic to fall, and Hitler to come to power.
Our parties are not as near stratified, but I can't compare Obama to Hitler of course! -Despite what people seem to insist on saying. - It is true the Democrates ran all over the opposition in the first two years of his Presidency; but we just gotta get over that and drive on.
Great point. With the problems e-voting machines have today, they're bound to be more a headache than a convenience. These days, I know it's hard to believe, but pad paper does sometimes perform better than an iPad.
The potential for a discrepancy between the popular vote and the electoral college vote is a whole other issue, but with the exception of 2000 -- where I don't know that we ever got a final, accurate count -- you have to go back to 1888 to find that happening.
If anyone cares, it happened three times in the UK in the twentieth century (won the popular vote but not a majority of Parliamentary "seats"). I actually remember the chaos in 1974: a second election was held the same year.
Oh yes, two bastions of democracy, both capable of generating confusion at election time. If Florida doesn't undertake a serious overhaul of its election systems, I am predicting chaos in 2016. Not too soon for predictions, right?
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