Worries over electronic voting machines proving a non-issue
August 26, 2004
All the wringing of hands, worries that seniors wouldn’t be able to deal with 21st century technology and confusion causing people to vote for the wrong candidate has largely turned into a non-issue after a week of early voting.
“The comments have been really positive,” said Carson City Clerk/Recorder Alan Glover. “I thought we were going to need a lot more outreach, but we haven’t had to because people are catching on real quick.”
He said the analogy comparing the new touch-screen voting machines to ATMs is a good one. The same comparison has been made by a number of voters.
Douglas County Clerk Barbara Reed said everything is going smoothly there as well.
“It’s caught on fine and it’s taking voters less time than we expected,” she said.
“The first person in the door Saturday morning was an 84-year-old. He said these kids aren’t going to leave me behind.”
Recommended Stories For You
She said the man had no trouble casting his ballot on the Sequoia Voting Systems machine – nor did an 18-year-old voting for the first time later that day.
Glover said Carson City also had its first blind voter. He said the woman “really liked the idea she got to vote independently.”
By midweek, both said they were on track to have a better early-vote turnout than two years ago, even though there are no major statewide races and contested primaries on the Carson City ballot.
“I’ve talked to a lot of people who weren’t going to vote in the primary because nothing caught their interest,” he said.
Glover said intense interest in the presidential race as well as more controversial legislative races will draw many more people for the general election.
The machines lined up in the hallway outside Glover’s office in the courthouse are designed to walk even complete novice voters through the ballot. When a voter appears and is confirmed as registered by the clerk’s office, he or she receives a computerized credit card which tells the machine which precinct and party the person is allowed to vote in.
The coding on that card determines what races and candidates appear on the individual’s ballot when they insert the card in the voting machine. That means voters should take a good look at the races they see to make sure they are voting in the correct precinct.
The first decision is whether to view the ballot in English or Spanish. After that, race by race, the candidates’ names appear on the screen. To select one, all the voter does is touch the screen and a check appears by the candidate’s name.
Then press “NEXT” to move to the next race.
At any time a voter can go back and change a vote by pressing the “PREVIOUS” screen button.
When finished, voters preview their choices – first on the video screen. If they have missed a race, they simply go back to that contest and pick a candidate. Or they can choose not to vote in certain races.
Then the voter gets the chance to see how his or her ballot looks on a printer, which appears to the left of the video screen. Even then, the voter can go back and change a choice.
When finished, the voter simply presses the button casting the ballot. The machine pops out the now-deactivated computer card and the vote is complete.
Voters turn in those cards so they can be re-activated for another voter. Glover urges people not to take them, because they cost several dollars each.
Glover said not only can the machine accept an audio headset to let those with severe vision problems vote, it can present ballots in more than one language. When voting with the audio headset, voters walk through the ballot using three buttons – NEXT, BACK, and SELECT. So no one can see how they vote, the machine’s screen is blank when the audio set is being used.
For those worried about power outages or whether clerks can check the accuracy of a machine, Glover pointed out the machine has a battery backup.
And the votes made on each machine are actually recorded in three different ways. They are recorded on the data card inserted in the back of the machine, which is used at the end of the night to tally votes.
They are recorded electronically inside the machine’s own memory. And they are recorded on the printed record which is stored inside the machine after each voter finishes.
“Knock on wood, but this is going so smoothly,” Glover said.