Sunday, October 31, 2004

Voting Day Almost Here

Citizen's Voice of the Day

There will be no Citizens' Voice of the Day quote today. Nothing struck me as worthy of notice, but decide for yourself.

I registered to vote soon after moving here again. I had an opportunity to speak to the Supervisor of Elections for Monroe County, Harry Sawyer, to ask about the systems used for voting in the County. Thankfully, Monroe has continued using the Diebold optical scan system that I've used to vote in the past . As you may know, several counties in Florida have adopted the electronic voting systems that came into focus because the Help America Vote Act (HAVA) of 2001. I say thankfully about Monroe because that system furnishes an audit-able paper trail in the event of system failures or a recount, something that the electronic systems do poorly or not at all.

This is a topic that I've been following for about two years. I became interested because I served for twelve years as Supervisor of the Checklist in New Hampshire. Checklist Supervisors are elected officials in each NH city or town. These boards normally have three members, are competed for on a partisan basis, and are responsible for registering voters and checking voters into and out of the polling place(s). That, and my background in computers and technology, led me to explore further when I came across references to a web site called and read about problems that were then just being uncovered in the various systems being developed by several manufacturers of this class of equipment. There are only a few companies doing this. The largest is Diebold, Inc., the manufacturer of many of the ATM machines in use throughout the world. Another is Sequoia Systems, and the third of the three largest companies is Election Systems and Software. I read, and continue to read enough to convince me that the voting system that served well for many years before becoming systematized by things like punch cards (the system chosen by the board I served on), optical systems, mechanical, lever-style voting machines, and most recently touch screen systems.

With the new open voting period that Florida has adopted, voting has actually been underway for about three weeks here in Key West. I haven't voted yet, and haven't been to the Supervisor's offices to see how that has been going, but reports from elsewhere in Florida say that two million votes have already been cast. I plan to go to the Community Pool building here in Bahama Village, just up Thomas St. from where we live, fairly early on Tuesday to cast my ballot. I can only speculate about what the turnout will be, but it will be interesting if there are large numbers already at the polling place when I get there.

I'm watching a program on C-SPAN right now that is examining this issue, the issue of legal challenges to presidential election, now, two days before Election Day. The panelists are talking about the procedures in place to deal with matters like obstructionism, intimidation, and likely challenges to voter eligibility, all of which are almost certain to bring about the legal wrangling that affected the 2000 elections.

So, I'm satisfied that Monroe County voters will be able to vote with confidence that their ballots will be counted accurately and fairly. About the rest of Florida, I'm not so sure.

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