Politics is a hard place for the everyday United States citizen. As if Citizens United v. FEC and the erosion of democratic power weren’t enough, now even basic things like the right to vote are under threat. And provided you actually manage to make it to the polls, there seems to be yet another challenge in your way — making the machine actually work for you.
The touchscreen Diebold machines at the heart of the issue have caused controversy every election period in recent memory, largely due to complaints of being unverifiable. Many documented and anecdotal accounts of votes being changed can be found as well, with such instances usually explained away as being “calibration errors” or due to the screen picking the “default” candidate. This year, issues are being reported in multiple states. Virginia, North Carolina, and Maryland have all reported problems, among others.
This comes despite around 70 percent of Americans casting votes this year actually doing so by hand, rather than using electronic voting machines. That’s because most of the machines in use are a decade old. The Bush debacle led to a surge of support and funding for voting machines — after all, paper ballots, while superior in many ways, have their own weaknesses as well. Since then, many states have neglected to replace or maintain their machines because of budget considerations.
From The Hill:
The lack of spending on the machines is a major problem because the electronic equipment wears out quickly. [Pamela Smith, president of election watchdog Verified Voting] recalled sitting in a meeting with Missouri election officials in 2012 where they complained 25 percent of their equipment had malfunctioned in preelection testing.
‘You’re dealing with voting machines that are more than a decade old,’ Smith said.
Whether due to neglect or design, it’s pretty clear that our current voting machines present too many issues for continued use to be advisable. As the machines get older, they’re going to become harder to use and present more problems, and this isn’t a process we can afford to wait to clean up. It’s time we discussed voting in the 21st century — technology streamlines the voting process, but being easily understood, verifiable, and extremely difficult to hack or otherwise manipulate is integral. Politics shouldn’t infringe on democracy.