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November 01, 2004

Electronic Early Voting in Orange County

On my way home from the O.C. last weekend, I was at John Wayne Airport when I noticed a booth set up for early voting. They had a (paper) voter list for you to sign off in, and an electronic voting machine, the eSlate. There was someone manning the booth, who gave me a demo of the machine (since he had nothing better to do).

This is not absentee voting, it's early voting; you vote at a polling place (which this folding table in the airport was) before the official Election Day. You can't do it if you vote absentee and of course you can't vote again on Election Day (who knows how well that is enforced). From the list of sites they had (grocery stores, malls, etc), there were many opportunities to do so. They had handouts in a bunch of languages (since the area is pretty diverse -- the one I grabbed is English with Vietnamese on the back). And the booth was open at 6:30 pm on a Sunday.

It looked pretty simple to use, altough I might not be the typical user. They had a fake election programmed in for a demo, with candidates like Charles Dickens and Martha Washington for State Senator (is Dickens even eligible to be a California State Senator? Not the being dead part, the being British part). In the real election, California voters get to decide on a $3 billion stem-cell research initiative.

Of course I asked about a paper trail, and he said not until 2006. But as someone pointed out in a talk on secure elections that I went to, a paper trail still has problems.

I remembered this when I saw this article in the paper today about absentee voters who die before election day. Technically their votes are not supposed to count, and with paper absentee ballots that are held until election day before being counted, it is possible to actually enforce this to some degree. But with early electronic voting, it is impossible.

Posted by AdamBa at November 1, 2004 09:09 AM

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