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After a reboot, does my vote count?  (CA)

Kevin Ho   C/Net Blog    05 February 2008

With all things touch-screen in an increasingly touch-screen centric world I was given the plastic or paper option for casting my vote in the California primary on this most super of Super Tuesdays. So, not liking the marker fumes and used to touching everything on the iPhone anyway, I opted to vote plastic. The polling place had 10 conventional optical scan voting stations with real paper ballots, but only 1 digital voting machine. San Francisco uses the Sequoia voting machine and well, here's my story:

The clerk handed me a plastic card to into the machine. The idea that you the card to activate the ballot and machine. Easy, right? Ummm, no, not so in my case. Instead of the blackscreen of death, Sequoia's red screen of death (irony that the Communists would laugh at) popped up when I ed my card into the machine's slot. Nothing moved, no touching or talking to the machine worked. What's worse, the card was now stuck in the machine as there was no eject button or function. The clerk who handed me the card was confounded and I was having flashbacks to that movie, Man of the Year, with Robin Williams being elected on a computer glitch and with the thought that I'd have to cast a dreaded 'provisional ballot' - at least my name isn't Chad and I wasn't pregnant.

Not to be deterred, however, another clerk came over, explained something about hitting "yes" to other clerk who handled the plastic cards that had been processed on another machine and then proceeded to lift the back of my voting machine up, slapping it hard that must have told it to reboot itself. (What is it about me and having to reboot things? Voting machines, airline seats, iPhones?)

After the two-minute-long reboot voting was simple. After a language choice, you were presented with various screens containing all the would-be presidents, ballot measures and attempts to turn Alactraz into a Global Peace Park (I voted no on that bright idea). The font was large and not as elegant as the voter guide nor was it sex like any Apple-based user interface, but it was functional. I clicked my choices (maybe you can see who I voted for on the pictures I took on my iPhone to document the event) and, at the end, was asked to review my choices. What's best, is that the screen then directed me to look at the paper (yes, paper) receipt on the left of the machine that scrolled up that provided the reassuring paper record of my vote. And it was, indeed, accurate.

So in the end, it's anachronistic notion that, in a plastic world paper is still the default method that gives us reassurance that our vote still counts. What's more interesting is that while my plastic voting method was to be faster, it wasn't, as some of the paper people in line behind me moved past me.

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