Electronic voting in N.J.: same old

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Same booth. Different names.

I guess I expected something different.

We’ve been hearing a lot of fuss here in New Jersey about our transition to electronic voting booths. Said the New York Times,

All polling places in New Jersey, Delaware and Georgia, as well as most in Tennessee and some in Arkansas, will use paperless touch-screen machines on Tuesday. These states were rated “high risk” for voting problems, according a report released Thursday by Common Cause and the Verified Voting Foundation, two advocacy groups that have been critical of electronic voting.

Why? ABCnews.com reports,

Those states made the list because they don’t have safeguards in place such as requiring machines to produce paper ballots or records and requiring random postelection audits of the machines, according to the voting foundation’s president, Pamela Smith.

Inspires a lot of confidence, right? In my state, election officials missed the January 1 deadline to retrofit our old voting booths with paper printers; it’s now been slid back to June.

So here’s what it was like voting in the new electronic age. My husband and I showed up at the same elementary school auditorium where we have voted for the past 10 years. Funny: the curtained booths looked exactly the same. I made Chris snap a photo of me heading in.

“Awww,” said the election worker, who must have assumed I was a new citizen proud of my first contribution to the electoral system. We live in an area populated heavily by immigrants, most of whom look like me.

“Dork,” muttered Chris, who knew I came to this country 20 years ago.

Okay. So I pulled aside the curtains and saw—exactly what I saw the last time I voted. A large, wide panel showed the two rows of presidential candidates, their names next to small, raised buttons. A green X popped up next to my candidate’s name. Then I push a red button on the bottom panel. The only difference between the old poll and the new is that the whole process didn’t end with a pull of a lever, which also opened the curtain. There was something really satisfying about pulling that lever, sort of like playing a slot machine.

“Huh,” said Chris. “I thought it would look more like an ATM screen.” I’ve seen pictures of booths in other states that do resemble touch-screen computers. That would have felt like an advancement. Instead I feel like we’ve just stepped into a time machine with great fanfare and found we’d traveled exactly nowhere.

We spent last weekend in Disneyworld, where we were startled to learn that, upon entry, Disney electronically scans all visitors’ fingerprints. This morning, before we voted, we simply gave the election workers our names and signed a fat ledger. Nobody asked for proof of identity; on our end, we have no paper proof of our election choices.

Basically, voting in New Jersey was same old, same old. Your states?

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