Tuesday, November 07, 2006

We don't need no steenkin' computers

Here in New York I'm lucky enough to get to vote in one of those old fashioned voting booths. You know the kind I mean--a gigantic iron lung of a machine with gears and levers and a privacy curtain. It's the same kind pictured in the School House Rock cartoons of 1920s suffragettes voting for the first time. Indeed their design dates back to that era. Supposedly they jam easily and there are no companies left who manufacture spare parts to repair them, but still there is something that feels secure about them. No hanging chads, no corrupt Diebolds machines.

When you enter the booth, you pull a huge red lever the size of an eighteen-wheeler gear shift from left to right which causes the privacy curtain to close with a squeak. Then you review your candidate choices pulling a lever for each one where a huge "X"slides into place next to their name. If you change your mind, you just push the lever back to its original position and the "X" disappears. Makes sense, right? Once you've pushed all the levers for your candidates of choice you once again slide the huge red gear back from right to left this time. And with the mechanical din of gears shifting into place and the smell of freshly oiled cogs the curtain squeaks open and your vote is recorded. I have never once worried that my vote was not counted. And I like it that way.

Voters at voting booths, 1945.

Update 11/21/06: A report today said that out of 7,000 "old, gray clunker" voting machines city wide in New York, only 9 broke down on election day. Compare that with 15.4% of computer touch machine booths nationwide that failed to count votes at least some of the time.

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