Paper Ballots Save Time

Steven Taylor notes that, Barack Obama notwithstanding, change isn’t always a good thing.  He breezed through the lines in Montgomery, Alabama.

Speaking of optical scan ballots—thank goodness for them, or we would have likely had to wait for hours. Had we had to use voting machines (as we did in 2004), there would have been long lines, given that only one voter per machine could vote at a given time. With the optical scan ballots I noted between 40 and 50 people voting at a given moment with about another 10 in line to deposit their ballots into the machine. One of the factors that seems to have been ignored in the rush to get The Latest TechnologyTM to the polling places (i.e., touch screens) is that a limited number of access points to vote causes long lines. The only bottlenecks for a polling locale with optical scans ballots are 1) when one checks in, and 2) when one deposits one’s vote.

My Northern Virginia precinct used electronic touch screen machines and the reports I’ve had are that the lines were inordinately long this morning.  I breezed through three weeks ago but even then having only two machines available created an unnecessary wait.

Paper ballots are cheap, easy to understand, fast, and keep a permanent record.  Electronic machines are expensive, confusing, cause bottlenecks, and have no paper trail.  Why the move from the former to the latter?

FILED UNDER: Campaign 2008, Science & Technology, US Politics, , , ,
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is a Security Studies professor at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. Triumph says:

    Why the move from the former to the latter?

    It’s harder to steal the election with paper ballots.

  2. sam says:

    Paper ballots are cheap, easy to understand, fast, and keep a permanent record. Electronic machines are expensive, confusing, cause bottlenecks, and have no paper trail. Why the move from the former to the latter?

    Because we live in a gee-whiz, technorgasm age, is why. There’s this cult of the electron loose in the land. I used a paper ballot, and it was run through an optical scanner–total elapsed time for me to vote and have it recorded was something like 10 minutes. I think it took me longer to get out of the parking lot.

  3. Michael says:

    Because we live in a gee-whiz, technorgasm age, is why.

    That’s funny, because it was the gee-whiz tehno-geeks that were the most out-spoken against touch screen voting. Touch screens were selected because they were the best marketed, no other reason.

  4. because it was the gee-whiz tehno-geeks that were the most out-spoken against touch screen voting

    Indeed. Really, anyone who knew anything about it said that optical scan was best. Part of it was, as you suggest, marketing, but the technophilia was felt, I woud argue, by legislators who wanted to show in the post-2000 era that they were getting the latest and greatest tech.

    Heck, I’ve been grousing about this for at least half a decade (see here and here, for example).

  5. Ugh says:

    I’ll go with Michael’s marketing point and also speculate that it was an overreaction to the whole “hanging-chad” business in Florida in 2000 that morphned into “paper = bad”.

  6. sam says:

    That’s funny, because it was the gee-whiz tehno-geeks that were the most out-spoken against touch screen voting

    Who said I was blaming the geeks? It was the nontechno-geeks who pushed for their adoption. That’s where the gee-whiz factor comes in.

  7. just me says:

    I agree. The states with machines I have lived in have had hours long waits. The states with paper or optical scan have never been longer than 30 minutes.

  8. William d'Inger says:

    Gee, we’ve had electric/electronic voting machines here in Louisiana for so long that I can’t remember when they first came into use. It’s never been a problem as far as I now. Since the state is not known for cutting edge technology, I have no idea why big states can’t get it right. This morning there were plenty enough machines available that I zipped through in 10-12 minutes.

  9. Steve Plunk says:

    With vote by mail paper ballots we here in Oregon have solved the problem of long lines and voter turnout. So far no complaints.

    It’s interesting that both liberals and conservatives like paper ballots. It warms the heart to see such bipartisan behavior.

  10. sam says:

    And btw, Michael, I was a geek in one of my former lives, but a kind of Bill Joy geek as far as technology goes.

  11. Michael says:

    And btw, Michael, I was a geek in one of my former lives, but a kind of Bill Joy geek as far as technology goes.

    I have no idea what that means.

    My country in central Florida has been using optical scan since before I could vote, and I was in and out in 10 minutes, and that was only because I took my 4 year old son in with me and explained to him what we were doing. There was no line to either get my ballot, or turn it in.