crypto and public policy

Voting: The Really Interesting Stuff for 2004

Filed under: General September 13, 2004 @ 2:09 pm

While most of the press is focused on the paper trail vs. no paper trail conflict, here are the really interesting issues to think about for 2004:

  • Absentee Voting: the New York Times is picking up on this. In a misguided attempt to boycott controversial electronic voting machines, there’s a campaign of sorts to convince people to vote absentee. This is a terrible idea, because absentee voting in its current form completely defeats the secret ballot principle. A surge in absentee voting could lead to a frightening opportunity for significant fraud.
  • Colorado and Proportional Electoral Votes: Colorado’s electoral votes might be split proportionally instead of winner-takes-all. This could signal the beginning of a significant change in the electoral vote system. If only a few states do this, the electoral vote results could skew even further away from the popular vote than in 2000. If all states do it, the results will be closer to the popular vote. It’s an interesting dilemma.
  • Registration: the Caltech/MIT Voting Technology Project said it a few years ago, and it’s still true: the biggest election problem is the voter list. How we maintain it, how we purge it, etc… Chances are, the 2004 elections won’t be very different: many voters will be disenfranchised simply because of voter list management.

I suspect the 2004 elections will be problematic because the technology and policy are changing so rapidly. There’s one important thing each one of us can do to help mitigate problems: sign up to be a poll worker. Practically every precinct needs poll workers, especially poll workers who understand how to put in place a strict process like voting, and especially technically qualified poll workers in precinct with new equipment. Take one day out of your schedule this year and help democracy, no matter what your party affiliation might be.

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