In yesterday's DID post, one of the articles I linked to was called "10 Choke Points for Election Day" and it was written by Alan Boyle. Now, color me a bit biased, but I feel like he's MUCH too trusting of technology--especially for being the "Science editor" of MSNBC.com. So trusting that I decided to take his article apart, piece by piece, and point out how he and others in the media downplay the dangers of election irregularities in subtle, but effective ways. As always, the original article is italicized and my comments are smart-assy.

Here we go:

10 choke points for Election Day
What could go wrong? E-voting glitches, legal challenges and more
By Alan Boyle
Science editor
updated 10:32 a.m. ET, Fri., Oct. 31, 2008


So far, so good...

In the year 2000, we suffered through Florida's hanging chads and lingering lawsuits.


Ain't democracy a bitch?

So, we "suffered" through "hanging chads and lingering lawsuits," did we Mr. Boyle? What we quite literally suffered through was a misapplication of the Constitution that ended with the American people not having definite numbers from the 2000 election. Not having definite numbers means not being sure that the guy in the White House is even supposed to be there.

Just think about all the things Bush has screwed the pooch on and now think about the odds of someone else screwing up as badly. Yeah, Boyle, you MIGHT have left a few things out there in your lovely attempt at alliteration there.

In 2004, we agonized over the long lines at polling places, plus Ohio's provisional ballots.


Once again, was that all we agonized over? It wasn't the mysterious terrorism-related evacuation order claiming to be from the DHS that eventually denied having been given? It wasn't the exit polls that literally inverted the results of the election?

What about when a handful of people in Congress tried to get the election investigated but everyone else shrugged them off?

That was agonizing to me--and not just because I voted for Kerry but because I want to know for sure who ever gets into the Oval Office deserves to be there! Isn't that the whole point of democracy?

On Election Day this year, what problems will emerge as the choke points for the voting process?


Oh, Election Day! How many ways can you screw up? Let me count the ways! 1, 2, 3...

Damn, Boyle only came up with 10?

The bad news is that glitches have been popping up for weeks, during an early-voting period that has almost overwhelmed some election officials. The good news? Election officials have now had weeks to see exactly what kinds of problems are popping up, and to take care of them before the big day on Tuesday.


The badder news? Election officials have had YEARS to research, test, implement and FIX these election systems and they're such morons they STILL haven't pulled it off.

I'm just SURE in the remaining THREE DAYS before the election they'll be able to suss out all the problems and make sure every American's vote is counted!

O_O

"If there are problems on Election Day, it will be because of something unexpected, not because of a lack of preparation," said Doug Chapin, director of Electionline.org at the Pew Center on the States.


Well, let's hope the Pew-man is right. Though, logic would dictate that he's not. Scores of experts and regular joes like me have been pointing out the problems with these machines for years--if any of them pop up on Election Day we will not consider them "unexpected."

One problem that's totally expected will be long lines at polling places. "We knew that by midsummer," said Douglas Jones, a computer science professor at the University of Iowa who serves as a researcher and consultant on voting technologies.

Voter registration levels have risen to what appear to be historic proportions. If it weren't for the expanded use of early voting and vote-by-mail schemes, polling places might well have experienced the logistical meltdown that some observers feared.


Give them a chance! Why do you assume that early voting has completely averted the meltdown, sir?

I fully expect that the meltdown has been lessened by the early voting, but not every state has done early voting as far as I know.

"Things would be insurmountable if we didn't have this outlet," said Rick Hasen, an election-law expert at Loyola Law School in Los Angeles.

That's not to say that the election process will be trouble-free: But after two hard-fought presidential elections and an extended buildup to this one, the experts and the lawyers, the politicians and the voters have a better idea what kinds of trouble they'll be up against.


That much is true, but I think you're still painting a much too pretty picture, Mr. Boyle.

Here are 10 potential choke points to watch for on Election Day, in roughly chronological order:


Chronological order? OK...?

1. Funny business
During the countdown to Election Day, the GOP has been complaining about illegitimate voters, following up on presidential candidate John McCain's warning that "one of the greatest frauds in voter history" was about to be perpetrated.


This is funny business? If the Republicans have legit concerns, this is anything but "funny business." The fact is, that they don't have legitimate concerns--voter fraud effectively never happens.

Regardless, I don't think anyone's concerns about securing a fair election should be dumbed-down or belittled with a phrase like that. But hang on--here's what else, Mr. Boyle thinks is "funny business":

The Democrats, meanwhile, complain about voter suppression: For example, Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama's campaign officials in Nevada have said Obama supporters were being told falsely that they could vote by phone.


Yeah, what "funny business" is this?? Really, the Democrats have no right to expect their supporters to get accurate voting information! What losers those Democrats are!!

The thing is, "voter suppression" is an umbrella phrase that is used to describe any kind of activity that ends with a voter not voting. So, there's a lot more to it than just misinforming the voters. Way to oversimplify, Mr. B.

Lawyers from both sides will be maneuvering to capture the spotlight during Election Day, but Chapin doesn't think concerted efforts at fraud or suppression will get very far. "My sense is that a lot of this is just background noise to a lot of people," he said.


Wait so, this "expert" says "concerted efforts at fraud or suppression" are just "background noise to a lot of people"? That doesn't really make a lot of sense. What people think about these attempts really doesn't effect how successful the attempts are. Seriously, I see no logic connecting your ideas, sir.

2. Registration mismatches
The Help America Vote Act of 2002, or HAVA, required states to draw up voter registration databases that can be matched against ID cards. Some states are more persnickety than others about a "no match, no vote" policy. You should make sure that you're registered at the right address, and that you're heading for the right polling place. ("Can I Vote?" and GoVote are good places to start.)


Huh... some states are "persnickety"? I know I am a blogger and I like to slang it up with the best of them, but I'm thinking describing states attempts to adhere to the law as "persnickety" doesn't exactly accurately portray what's going on.

The thing you're missing, Mr. Boyle, is that this practice of requiring ID cards is tantamount to totalitarianism--what's next? A demand for "papers, please?" When you go to vote you shouldn't have to have a legit ID card--just something that proves you are who you say you are. Like a utilities bill, or perhaps a voter registration card???. I am a broke person, in between jobs, currently--I need to eat before I spend money to pay for a state ID card (I just moved to NY) but thankfully, NY state doesn't require state-issued ID cards as identification. But do you talk about how this law harms poor people? Nope! Do you talk about how poor people are statistically more likely to vote Democrat? Nope!

You might be able to "cure" registration problems in advance of Election Day. Bring the proper ID for your jurisdiction (registration card, drivers license, even a utility bill or bank statement with your name and address on it). That's particularly important if you're a first-time voter, someone who has moved recently or a student voting at a college outside your hometown.


Tee-hee, OK, so you kinda nailed me there--but what if those other things aren't good enough in my particular area? What if they are but I hear from someone else that they aren't, so I don't show up because that's all I've got? Wouldn't it be nice if we could all just show up with some sort of proof of where we live and be allowed to vote?

3. Provisional ballots
If you run into an ID issue or some other snag at the polling place, you may be asked to fill out a provisional ballot — which will be set aside in a separate pile to be counted after the election. Or not. The chances of your vote being included can vary dramatically from state to state. During the primary season, Ohio rejected 20 percent of the provisional ballots cast, while Illinois rejected a whopping 70.8 percent.


Well, I give you points here, for sure. Provisional ballots (for a time) were hyped as the solution to flaky electronic voting--but then those numbers you just quoted came out and now you might as well use your phone to vote like those poor Obama supporters in Nevada. :(

Bob Brandon, president and co-founder of the Fair Elections Legal Network, suggested that you try to resolve the problems that put you in the provisional pool before filling out the form. If you feel the need for outside help, you can check with voting assistance groups such as Election Protection or the League of Women Voters. But if all else fails, a provisional ballot is better than no ballot at all.


Even if it's possible it won't get counted? And how the hell am I supposed to contact "voting assistance groups such as Election Protection or the League of Women Voters" from the polling place? Am I supposed to have their number on me? Could you please provide their number? Guess not.

I will then:

Election Protection
866-OUR-VOTE
866ourvote.org

League of Women Voters
doesn't have an 800 # but you can still call them:
202-429-1965
lwv.org

You can also call:

CNN's voter problem hotline:
877-GOCNN-08

and VoterAction.org's recommended #:
866-MYVOTE1

Those numbers took me about five minutes, combined, to look up, BTW.

But you were saying, Mr. Boyle?

4. Unfamiliar voting systems
After the punch-card ballot debacle of 2000, election officials rushed to upgrade their voting machines, spending the $3.9 billion set aside by HAVA. Some jurisdictions switched over to electronic voting machines, only to switch once more to optical-scan machines due to concerns about glitches and lost votes.

Each switch forced polling-place workers to learn a new system, Jones noted. "Each time you do that, you're starting over again, and you get embarrassed again," he said. "My advice to election officials is, 'Don't panic — instead, study the system you have.'"


And don't switch it if it doesn't work or if people can't use it? Seems an odd choice.

On a side note, if we went back to paper ballots, I bet that was solve this whole "how do I work it?" question!

5. Vote-flipping and other glitches
If you're lucky, the early-voting season has already wrung out the glitches in the voting machines.


"If you're lucky..."

Interesting way to put it--how about "if we're lucky" or perhaps "if democracy is lucky"?

It may seem minor, but the way you phrase these things really does impact the way a person forms a perception about them.

Though, like I said, if these "glitches" have been worked out in the past week, how come they weren't in the preceding four years?

Some jurisdictions, however, use different systems on Election Day, and there's always the chance that bad calibration on a touchscreen voting machine will allocate your vote to the wrong candidate (a phenomenon known as "vote-flipping").


Haha--as though it's just a mysterious force of nature--beware of the "vote-flipping phenomenon" or the VFP!

As if. That's like praying to the iPhone god that it doesn't crash on me in the middle of an important call.

No, technology is the way technology is because it was made that way. I've said it a bunch of times and I'll say it again--there is no reason that I can think of for democracy to have a shittier touchscreen than my iPhone. My iPhone doesn't need calibration at all, so I don't know why the machines that help us secure our democracy do.

And tell me, sir, if this is just a "phenomenon," why do most votes flip from Obama to McCain? Why are we not hearing from any McCain voters complaining of VFP?

Seems like the phenomenon just might be politically motivated! :P

Must be some sort of "persnickety" gremlins making "funny business" inside these pure and divine machines.

Some states are required to have emergency paper ballots on hand in case too many of the touchscreens go on the blink, or in case the lines get too long. (The battleground states of Virginia, Pennsylvania and Ohio are prime examples.)


Too bad PA just said it probably won't have enough paper ballots. D'OH!

6. Long ballots, long lines
Technical glitches aren't the only reasons for delays at the voting booth. "We're hearing that lengthy ballots are making polling times longer," said Kay Stimson, communications director for the National Association of Secretaries of State. Some states, such as Pennsylvania, have been basing their allocation of voting machines on the assumption that it will take three minutes to vote — when the actual times might run closer to six minutes.


"Lengthy ballots?" I've never heard of this, but it sounds like you're suggesting that sometimes states expect their voters to vote on too many things at once and this slows them down. Personally, I think the solution to this is assuming each voter will take something more like ten minutes to vote. I always bring my sample ballot in with me and vote based on that--it's not like I'm standing there sweating whether I'm going Obama or McCain inside the booth. But still, if you're right and this has been a problem, I've got no issue with how you address it. However, I've been researching this "election irregularity" stuff for years and have never heard of it. I'm wondering if you're trumping this issue up a bit. Could be wrong, of course...

In 2004, there were scattered reports of pollworkers pressuring voters who took too long, but Stimson said she wasn't aware of such problems this year. To streamline your own polling-place experience, Stimson and many other election observers say you should study a sample ballot in advance and bring it to the polling place as a guide.


Regardless, this is good advice no matter what. Don't wait until the last minute--the night before the vote, just sit down with your sample ballot (most states send them to voters well in advance of the election) and decide how you're voting. Then bring the sample ballot with you.

7. Party hot spots
If history is any guide, each political party will try to focus its legal firepower on precincts where it stands to gain the most — or where the other party stands to lose the most. Judges and election officials are usually caught in the middle. Will polling-place hours be extended, as they were for early voting in Florida? Which states, and which counties within states, will be in play for the election endgame?

"The 'fog of war' is the right way to explain Election Day, as seen by the county election office," Jones said. "It's a battlefield."


I'm not sure this has anything to do with us--I could be wrong, of course--but how can we individual voters control where the parties go for recounts? And how will this screw things up? Seems to me that you're using a normal part of the process (well, "normal" may not be the right word) as an example of something that could go wrong. Being thorough and making sure the numbers are right is a good idea, period--regardless of who is winning so far. The longer we take to count the ballots the more certain (in theory) we'll be of the winner (this assumes the recount is done fairly and with complete transparency).

8. Counting the ballots
You might think the early votes and absentee ballots would be beyond dispute, but that's not necessarily the case. Such votes could be excluded due to mismatched signatures, or irregularities in the way the ballot was marked, or failure to sign the outside envelope for a mail-in ballot.


But this is always an issue in every election. I feel like you're trumping up again...

Jones said 4 to 10 percent of optical-scan absentee ballots typically "end up having to be examined by eyeball directly to get the voter intent correctly." Because so many more of such ballots are being cast this year — not only in the traditional absentee scenarios, but also in mail-in and early-voting settings — they could offer a bigger target for legal challenges.


I know that sometimes legal challenges can be bad, but you're not providing any examples of why they are. Challenges are bad because they're often over minor typos or other inconsequential details. However since challenging a vote is essentially an accusation of voter fraud and voter fraud almost never happens, this is a form of voter suppression. This is why it's bad.

9. Post-election ordeals
More and more states are conducting post-election audits to check the accuracy of their voting systems. In some states, touchscreen machines have been modified to print out a paper record of each vote. That's aimed at addressing concerns about disappearing e-votes. But what if the audit suggests a result that's different from the electronically recorded vote? Are the computers at fault, or the printers?


Uhhh, does it mean our system works??

When mistakes occur and the machines catch those mistakes, this is a good thing, sir--but you seem to make it out to be a bad thing. I just don't get the media, sometimes...

Remember, a slower election is generally a more accurate one.

Even paper-based systems have their problems.


THE DEUCE, YOU SAY!

The classic example played out in Palm Beach County, Fla., where thousands of optical-scan ballots went lost and found after an August primary election. It took several weeks' worth of recounts before officials settled on the winner of a razor-close judicial contest. If things turn out just wrong, something similar to 2000's Bush vs. Gore ordeal could happen again this year — even though Florida's infamous butterfly ballots are long gone.


The butterfly ballots were really not the problem in 2000, sir. There was a lot wrong with that election. The thing is, you've glossed over the fact that machines are just that--machines. You can program a computer to do anything, pretty much. Consider this:

You vote on a computerize ballot machine.

The machine spits out a receipt that says who you voted for.

It then marks a vote for someone else.

Paper trails or no, computerized voting simply can't be trusted--OR audited. Consider this:

You're an election official and you're auditing your computerized voting machines.

They pass your audit with flying colors! The numbers match and everything!

Of course, the machine could have been programmed to function differently after the election is over.

Sure some audits will catch errors, but wouldn't it just be easier to use paper and pencil to vote? You've got two issues then:

1) the voter's ability to draw a check mark or an "X"
2) preventing ballot stuffing

Seems so much more simple to me.

10. Letting go
If the presidential election isn't all that close, none of these potential choke points will matter.


Because if it's a landslide it won't matter if tens of thousands of votes don't get counted?

Nice attitude, sir. How about we get an accurate view of how many votes each person got, say, for the sake of history???

Why are you treating this like a game of dodge ball in gym class?

The concept of democracy is so incredibly simple yet everyone seems to want to take the lazy way out.

What about independent voters like me who want to see how far the 3rd partiers got? What about those of us who just want every vote cast to count?

Yeah, screw those guys!!

But if the margin is as narrow as it was in 2000 or 2004, it might be up to the candidates themselves to decide how far they want to keep the uncertainty going.


Gee, I've been uncertain Bush is the rightful President of the United States since November 2000.

Too bad Gore gave up long before I did. We might have definite numbers today.

Democratic candidate Al Gore took his dispute all the way up to the Supreme Court in 2000.


Wow. ALL THE WAY?

Al Gore was the VP at the time. He just took the case sideways. Are you familiar with our branches of government? ;)

Of course, the irony is that it should have gone sideways in another direction--to Congress who, according to the US Constitution is supposed to settle ties in elections.

In contrast, Gore's successor as the Democrats' standard bearer, John Kerry, decided against appealing the Election Night verdict in 2004.


Because he was a pussy.

Pardon my French, but it's true. Democracy is worth fighting for, sir. Not caving on just because of how things look.

This year, if the vote is close, the final act of one of America's most gripping campaign dramas may be determined not by the winner, but by the loser.


So, the one who fights is definitely the loser? That's like saying only the people who are wrong dissent.

No, sir, it's our duty as citizens of a democracy to fight until all the votes are counted.

It's amazing to me that so many people view democracy as something that should be "convenient" or speedy. George W. Bush rallied us to war because he said our democracy was under attack. Our government decided on its own to spend a trillion dollars on bailing out big businesses.

These are all complete and utter falsehoods and that's all there is to it.

The real threat to democracy is our general lack of interest in making sure every vote is counted.

This is the single most important thing in a democracy. Al Qaeda can't take our vote away--but our government can. Don't let them--pay attention and do your part to stand up for your vote an everyone else's.

Alan Boyle's article above is © 2008 msnbc.com everything else is © 2008 ThePete.Com.

Check out the original MSNBC article here: www.msnbc.msn.com/id/27464554

Thanks for reading this far.

As always, this is just my 2¥. ^_^