[joho] JOHO - April 2, 2004

  • From: "David Weinberger" <self@xxxxxxxxxxx>
  • To: <joho@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • Date: Fri, 2 Apr 2004 17:19:51 -0500

***** JOHO Interval ******
     April 2, 2004
Editor: David Weinberger (self@xxxxxxxxxxx)
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                      FEELING MY WAY TOWARD A NEW JOHO

                After hearing from bunches of you, I'm leaning
                toward option #3: Publishing miscellaneous
                pieces, generally longer than most blog
                entries, and sometimes taken from my blog.

                For example, here's a near-transcript of a
                commentary that ran on NPR's All Things
                Considered on Monday...


I'm double worried about electronic voting machines.
First there's the problem that lots of people have
noted with the new machines. Instead of marking a
box with a pen, you touch the screen to put an
electronic mark in an electronic box. Very
convenient and results are tabulated instantly, but
suppose there's a bug in the computer, or suppose
someone hacks into them. How would we even know that
the software is miscounting the votes?

The most talked-about solution is to have the
electronic voting machines also produce a paper copy
of your vote so you can compare it with what you
touched on screen. The paper copies would be kept
secure so they can be counted manually to verify the
electronic results...which makes sense to me.

But even if all the technical issues are resolved,
I'm not going to like voting with the new digital
machines. I'm voting because I want to make a
difference. A little difference, exactly one
person's worth. So I want my vote to make a mark in
the world. I want to make a thick X in smelly magic
marker ink where there wasn't one before. I want to
feel a lever click into place. I want to punch some
chads. That's what making your mind up feels like.
Touching a computer screen is a little too literally
doing my "bit."

Of course I don't want Florida to happen again. No
one does. And I'm enough of a combination news and
computer junkie to want election results within 4
seconds of the polls closing. But I'd be willing to
give that up if it meant I could savor my role as a
citizen longer.

You know, I not only want to make a mark on paper, I
want to wait in line at the polls. The line should
be long, and not only because that means lots of us
are voting. The inconvenience reminds us that voting
is worth waiting for. Besides, the line puts in
front of me and behind me people who disagree with
me. Yet right or wrong, we all get to stand in the
same line. No matter how much we disagree about the
future direction of our country, everyone in line
agrees on this: People who cut in line stink! That's
the basis of civil society.

And it should be drizzling on election day. And a
little cold. Hands in pockets cold, not glove cold.
We should be dusting the outside off our coats and
stamping it off our feet as we enter the polling
place because, although voting is an indoor
activity, we should be reminded of the reality of
the world outside, especially as voting goes

So, yes, I bow before the inevitable. I'll probably
be poking my finger at a touch screen and, I hope,
checking the results against a paper print out. I
may even glance sideways at the screen to see which
names have the most accumulated fingerprints next to
them. That's how badly I want to know the outcome.
But I'm afraid I'm going to feel more like I'm
recording information about my vote than actually
voting. Casting a ballot is the fundamental,
irrevocable act of democracy. I'm voting to have an
effect. It'd be nice to be able to feel the effect.

You can comment on this commentary here:


You can listen to it here:


For more information on electronic voting:


ADDENDUM: Within a couple of weeks of the primary
vote in Maine, articles [1] were circulating on the
Net "proving" that Howard Dean lost
disproportionately wherever electronic voting
machines were used, even factoring in the economic
differences in the regions.

I absolutely don't believe there was any tampering
in that election. But it's remarkable to me how
quickly the rumor arose simply because e-voting
machines were used. Imagine what will happen in
elections that are close or surprising.

[1] http://www.onlinejournal.com/evoting/021104Landes/021104landes.html
    A refutation:

                SO, WHAT DO YOU THINK?

                Is this a fruitful direction for JOHO? Comment here:



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