I voted today, long live the punch card.

by Eric M. Burke

Voting in Missouri makes me feel like I've stepped back in time to the 1960's. The process works like this:

  • Bring your paper election notice with you and give it to the person at the table

  • They don't check id. They do find your name in the paper book and put their initials by your name

  • You get one of three punch cards, depending upon your party affiliation.

  • You then go to a little booth, slide the punch card into a REALLY old "contraption", and punch a hole by your candidate.

The holes don't align. The card won't really slide in all the way...I was thinking "I wish I had my camera so I could take a picture of this and post it on my weblog".

Seriously, the holes on the card are misaligned with the little voting contraption booklet by at least 1/8". Thankfully they have numbers, so I was able to inspect the card to see if I actually punched the right number.

The good news is that in the primary, you only have one hole to punch. With dozens of holes to punch in the general election this November, I don't have a lot of confidence in this particular technology.

Can a high-tech voting solution save us?


2004-02-03 07:45:08
No need to check ID
You received a special post card in the mail with your name and address containing polling location and time information.

By presenting the card (has to be signed), you have authenticated yourself. You could argue someone could steal the card out of the mailbox, then present themselves as you, but Oliver Stone doesn't vote in Missouri...

Hmm.. Eric voted today. The Republican nomination is pretty much locked, so I guess you must be registered with the other party. I just drove by the poll place at 40MPH this morning..

2004-02-03 07:59:49
Slow Down!
What the heck were you thinking? 40MPH? The roads are icy today. People like you cause accidents.
2004-02-03 12:05:16
why a machine at all?
What's wrong with good old paper and a red pencil?
Might take a little longer to count all the votes but with OCR or similar software it could quite easily be automated.
2004-02-04 06:08:23
Paper Trail
The great advantage of the punch card approach is: it works. The high tech alternatives currently offered are, to say the least, unreliable.

Also note that there were actually three candidates on the Republican ballot. Sure, Bush is a shoo-in, but some people want to vote for one of the alternates as a protest against Bush's policies. You couldn't go 40MPH anywhere near my polling place...

2004-02-04 07:06:07
Missouri Politics
Brand new road. Nice concrete surface past the little library. Everyone tells me I should slow down..

Funny thing. I heard on the radio during this mornings commute that the head of the Democratic party for Missouri said they would not endorse Kerry at this time. They are waiting for the national Democratic candidate to be announced. What is the point of the primary then?

2004-02-04 07:13:31
why a machine at all?
Because in a close election you'd have to hand-count, then you'd find all sorts of ballots with poor penmanship. The republicans would say "that's outside of the box" and the democrats would say "that's inside of the box". Or vice versa. One side would argue to keep the questionable ballots, the other side would argue to throw them out. Depends upon who it would benefit in that particular election.
2004-02-04 07:15:34
Missouri Politics
The point of a primary is to obtain delegates.

The point of the BLOG is to debate the merits of voting technology. Whether or not we can come up with an accurate way to count votes is clearly a non-partisan issue.

2004-02-04 08:42:56
Missouri Politics
Other than pointing out that the author exposed themselves as being a non-republican, everything I posted was 100% non-partisan. If that offended the author, I apologize.

I think it is ludicrous, Republican or Democrat, that a party leader doesn't endorse the candidate which just WON their election. Endorse Kerry now and switch at the convention (just like EVERY delegate would have to do anyway).

2004-02-05 02:26:53
why a machine at all?
And the same happens with this as well...

Make the boxes to check nice and thick and count everything that doesn't fill the box and only the box as a non-vote.
As long as the rules about that are extremely strict there can be no discussion.

Alternatively, do away with physical media at all and go completely electronic.
Instead of a punchcard you press a button next to a name and then another button to confirm your vote (which can be displayed on a small screen or by lighting up the name you selected).
That's the system we've been using in this country for over a decade now and it works well. After closing of the polls the computer that runs the system is connected to the central computer and dumps the results which are then combined and counted without any human interaction at all.
In fact, the only phyical ballots we still have are the ones sent in from foreign embassies where expats still vote the oldfashioned way (the machines are too large and expensive still to simply equip every embassy with one).