Thursday, August 21, 2014

Does your Vote Count? Are you sure?

Voting season is coming up once again. Have you ever wondered how your vote is counted? If your vote is counted? If your vote is counted accurately?

Voting is not a Right. It’s privilege. It’s also a duty if you want a say in your representation at the various government levels.

During my voting lifetime which began forty years ago, I have voted in various methods. Paper ballots where you put an X next to the person’s name or the proposal or millage you’re voting for or against. There were the booths where one lever closes the curtains and a wall of levers next to each candidate and item and even a lever to automatically vote for everyone in one party or the other. Then there were the punch cards where you poke a hole for you vote. Computers with touch screens where you only need touch what you’re voting for and it’s recorded.

For the past two elections, my precinct has had a two sided scanner. You color in the  bubble on your ballot, then slide it into a scanner and it records your vote.

But how do we know that our vote is counted accurately on any of these methods of voting? Are we to just trust our elected officials? Trust is something that is earned. Has our government earned our trust?

Remember the election of 2000. More specifically the Florida debacle that dragged the election out for 35 extra days. Ballots were gathered up and brought to a central location within three counties and officials were counting them by hand. Who can forget the judge, with glasses on his forehead holding a ballot up to the light to try to figure what the voters intent was. That election gave us pregnant chad, dimpled chads, swinging chads, tri-chads and so on. Just as they get their recount done, another batch of ballots is miraculously found and need to be counted.

We have a government that does not trust its citizenry yet they expect us to trust them. Quite often when there is lack of trust we find that it’s because the one not trusting actually has something to hide.

The past two elections, I decided to ask questions about my vote counting. The latest was on August 5 of this year in the primary here in Michigan. After filling out my ballot, I then walked over to the machine and fed my ballot into the scanner. As it was sucked my ballot in, there was nobody within ten feet of the machine except for me.

I turned and asked if I get a receipt for my vote showing who and what I’ve voted for. I got two of the most dumbfounded looks that I’ve ever seen. I was told that the machine had my ballot in the storage bin and it automatically counts it as it’s scanned. So I asked how I was to know that it recorded my votes the way that I voted. The answer was that it was automatic and they are verified. I then said, “there was nobody near the machine so how can you verify it?” I was then told that if the number of voters didn’t match up to the count on the machine, they’d have to recount them by hand.

I had to push this just a little bit further. So I said, “there is one office that has two people running for it. I refuse to vote for the one because I disagree with them completely and I refuse to vote for the other because he has done just the opposite of what he said when running the last time. So the numbers won’t match up. So how do I know that someone won’t look at my other votes and determine that I would have voted for this one person and I must have accidentally missed it?” The answer: “We wouldn’t do that.”

There is one other new feature this year. Now as you’re going through the line from one worker to the next, one of them asks for your drivers license and they run it through the track on their computer as though it were a credit card. It’s reading the magnetic strip on the back. I asked if they are seeing my health records and driving record on there? He smiled and said no. I should have asked if I could see what’s on there because frankly, I don’t know what’s on that magnetic strip. Whatever is on there, I don’t think that some guy working an election line that is either retired in his everyday life or maybe works at Fords, should be seeing my personal information. So I guess I have my question for the next election in November.

I should mention that I live in a remote area. When I went in to vote there was only one other person there voting. I would probably be more annoying to them if they were busy and trying to answer my questions. 

We go into cast our vote and they are gathering information on us, and we are trusting them to count our ballots accurately, and record them just as accurately and we have no way of verifying that they are doing as they should be. Can we really trust these election officials that don’t trust us?

You’re welcome to comment.


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