Using Technology to Deepen Democracy, Using Democracy to Ensure Technology Benefits Us All

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Look, All Fixed!

Paper Ballots Are Appropriate Technology

Link to Democracy Now! story this morning with more details:
With the election less than a week away, the battle is on for voting rights. Early voters across the country are reporting long lines and problems with electronic voting machines. Republicans, meanwhile, continue to file lawsuits that could stop thousands from voting. We speak to Harvey Wasserman of Free Press and Brad Friedman of the Brad Blog.


Martin said...

Yep, these are the unfortunate side effects of advances in technology. The more complex the system, the more ways it can fail (just look at the human body).

I think this guy rightfully points out that it's a calibration problem. I think people are too quick to judge that the machines are "fixed." I did see a video of a machine that DID go to McCain when you touched Obama, but the two were right next to each other, and if the calibration is off by just an inch (not as far off as this one), you might expect that.

Touch screens have these problems all the time. Even the first generation iPhone suffered from this problem, which made it difficult to use the key pad for a friend of mine.

Dale Carrico said...

I don't think these are advances in technology. I think this is digital hype promoting itself as an advanced technology to the rubes because it is all futurologically computerized and such.

But the reality is that these touch screen systems represent a marked devolution from paper balloting systems that can work perfectly efficiently (and do for countless millions of people on earth), can be designed very clearly so long as the designers don't think they benefit from confusion or are restrained in this by sensible standards, lend themselves simultaneously to third-party and media oversight *and* to individual privacy, crucially have an explicit connection between voter intent and a trackable paper trail that is lacking in even the best electronic systems.

One can make a good case for offering differing systems to facilitate voting for our differently enabled citizens, but there is no case for generalized electronic or touchscreen voting systems. These new systems served no need except the desire of some scam artists to sell shit on a wave of digital hype, and -- in some cases -- steal election on the margins for Republicans who can't win in an actual democracy.

These are crappy confusing disenfranchizing systems peddled through vapic techno-fetishistic discourse. Not all change is progress. This isn't a matter of bleeding edge mavericks paying the price for being visionaries, this is a case of dupes buying into a line of bullshit, or bullshit artists asking the rest of us to buy one.

We're going to go back to almost universal paper balloting systems, over the next few years -- this time with electronic magnification and amplification alternatives for the differently enabled -- and this time subject to *universal voting standards,* universal early and mail-in voting, a national election holiday, and so on to smooth some of the real wrinkles in such systems that made it more plausible to bamboozle the rubes into falling for this idiotic chapter of electronic voting experimentation.

Those who might want to accuse me of luddism due to this response -- and certainly I don't think my friend Martin would, I'm not sure he would even disagree with much that I am saying here, though he would surely say it in a more evenhanded way than I am -- need to realize that change is only progress when it is change for the better. Technophilia is as facile, uncritical, and reactionary as technophobia is. Appropriate Technology is progressive -- everything else is bullshit. (Transhumanism, anyone? Er, I guess I should say, Humanityplustronism, anyone?)

Martin said...

I do agree with most of what you are saying, especially your point that "change is only progress when it is change for the better".