Will Technology Make Voting Better or Worse?

For a long time I have advocated upgrading the country's old voting booths to more current digital machines.  Now, New York City will be adopting a new voting system, replacing the long-lasting lever system with a computerized version.  Unfortunately it now includes a paper ballot.  I was hoping for a completely paperless system, and I am worried that, as far as I know, there is no verification of your vote to reassure you that it has tallied your choices accurately before final submission.

The old mechanical voting booths had their breakdowns and their naysayers, and I welcome a new digitized system, but adding paper to the mix seems a bizarre choice.  The only paper should be a receipt at the end with a printout of what you voted, so you have validation that the system got it right.

The new method will have New Yorkers mark a paper ballot, filling in ovals next to their selections, like a standardized test (although you apparently will not need to bring a Number 2 Pencil, you can just use the pen provided by the Board of Elections staff and volunteers at the poll site).

Next, the paper ballot has to be scanned in the new kiosks that look like copying machines.  But will we be able to see any proof that the devices scanned our votes properly?  There was no verification in the old system, but if we are hoping for progress here, then that should be one of the obligatory improvements. 

It seems to me that this new system already seems a bit dated and quaint. With today's modern technology of broadband Internet connections, high-tech encryption software, touchscreen monitors, and high speed processor chips, is this paper-and-scanner system really the best our government can come up with?  And again I ask, will there be a step at the end of the whole process that allows the voter to verify that his or her selections have been properly tabulated?  If not, that's a big fallacy that should be immediately fixed.

We will have a better sense of its effectiveness during the primary election scheduled in September.  Hopefully any glitches in the system will be identified and corrected before then and before the General Election in November.

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