Voting Machine Mess Can’t Just Be Fixed by Congressional Bills

Excellent article by Norman Ornstein of the American Enterprise Institute.  It is not just progressives that understand the problems with electronic voting.

In addition to outlining some of the problems, Mr. Ornstein also articulates very well the business reasons why voting machines and ATM’s are different, not just in their function but in the market limitations and economics.  As a former software product manager and buyer, I can vouch for the accuracy of that aspect of his analysis.

He suggests that Apple or Google solve the problem while others often propose open source solutions.  I don’t expect Apple or Google to do anything so significant without a profit motive, any more than I expect Walmart or the Hartford Courant to do so either.   My longstanding belief is that some things are best done by private enterprise, others by government and that either can be screwed up (with us being the ones at the wrong end of the screw).  Obviously the current method is not working for the benefit of Democracy.

Read his article <read>. Some excerpts below:

ATMs are very costly machines, required to provide the combination of convenience of use, reliability of service and ironclad security guarantees. Banks and other financial institutions are willing to lay out the money because they save by eliminating layers of tellers and other personnel, and because they need ATMs to compete in the marketplace. There are enough machines, and enough turnover in them, to create real incentives for top-flight companies to improve them and hone the technology on a regular basis…None of those conditions applies to elections and voting machines.

For the political system, the problems with these and other voting machines are deep. Congress has been struggling since 2000 to fix, and refix, them. The Holt bill will reduce some of the potential for disaster in coming elections. But it is no panacea.

No voting machine is perfect. The ages-old lever machines, like the more recent punch-cards, have their own problems, as do the optical-scan ballots, the best of the options currently available, but that can create problems of voters failing to vote for some offices, voting more than once for others, or mismarking ballots. But it is possible to create a much better option, one that includes the ease of use of a touch-screen, with its ability to prevent undervotes, overvotes and other voter errors, and the reliability and safety of an optical-scan ballot filled out impeccably and available for the voter to check directly, and then have tallied and available for recounts or other controversies.

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