Fixing the Vote

“Electronic voting machines promise to make elections more accurate than ever before, but only if certain problems–with the machines and the wider electoral process–are rectified.

Voting may seem like a simple activity–cast ballots, then count them. Complexity arises, however, because voters must be registered and votes must be recorded in secrecy, transferred securely and counted accurately. We vote rarely, so the procedure never becomes a well-practiced routine. One race between two candidates is easy. Half a dozen races, each between several candidates, and ballot measures besides–that’s harder. This complex process is so vital to our democracy that problems with it are as noteworthy as engineering faults in a nuclear power plant.

Votes can be lost at every stage of the process. The infamous 2000 U.S. presidential election dramatized some very basic, yet systemic, flaws concerning who got to vote and how the votes were counted. An estimated four million to six million ballots were not counted or were prevented from being cast at all–well over 2 percent of the 150 million registered voters. This is a shockingly large number considering that the decision of which candidate would assume the most powerful office in the world came to rest on 537 ballots in Florida.”

More here by Ted Selker in Scientific American.