'Without procedural integrity, you have nothing'
Robert C. Koehler - March 30, 2006
Oh, those glitches!
For some reason we tolerate them a lot more in an election — that is to say, in the mechanics of democracy, something we affect to believe in so fervently we're willing to go to war to make sure other countries have it — than we would in, let's say, our banking system.
Last week's primary election fiasco here in Chicago and Cook County — a fiasco of such ballot-eating magnitude that the city and county, which each had separate deals with Sequoia Voting Systems, are withholding more than $30 million remaining on their respective contracts with that company — should have generated howls of outrage. Instead, the tone of the local coverage of the chaotic transition from punch cards to optical-scan and touch-screen voting struck me more as tepid bemusement.
Most infuriating was the scattershot use of the trivializing, blame-avoidance word "glitch," which reduces disenfranchisement to oh well, gosh, just one of those things. The media can live with glitches. They still get their numbers to report. They still get "results," which, in our world of breathless headlines and two-second sound bites, are all that matter. Voting - democracy — is the booster engine that produces winners, then quietly disappears.
The operative assumption is that, despite the chaos, vulnerability to fraud and enormous cost, electronic voting is inevitable, "modern." And once you eliminate the human-error factor, it's, you know, infallible.
This, of course, is preposterous; every line of code in a voting program was written by a human. Our vote is hostage to a flawed, secret system of counting that almost no one understands.
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