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Report from Minnesota... anybody heard from Florida?

11/18/2000 1:14 PM
Steve A.
Report from Minnesota... anybody heard from Florida?
    I was just talking to my mother's sister last night and she was a volunteer worker at the polls in her hometown in Minnesota. It was interesting how MN is quite different from CA...  
    They have an automated ballot reader at each polling place and after marking your choices with a dark pencil (or pen?) you feed your ballot into this machine. Some people had to fill out their ballots 3 or 4 times before the machine would accept them as being valid... but there was the instant feedback so that they were able to correct the problems right then and there.  
    When the polls closed, the automated machinery would tabulate all of the results, which were then sent to a central location over the phone lines. (Presumably encrypted so that hackers could not corrupt election results... I hope that they consider that factor.)  
    And in MN you can register to vote on Election Day! My aunt thought that was one reason that Gov. Ventura had won (all of the young voters registering on Election Day to vote for him...)  
    In any case, I liked what I heard about the machinery they used for counting the ballots... I think that there should be federal standards that would apply to all such machines and I believe that an instant check that the ballot is valid should be mandatory.  
    So has anybody heard the results of the absentee ballots in Florida yet? I guess right now it is 8:00AM out there... what time were they going to announce the results?  
Steve Ahola
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11/18/2000 4:19 PM
Hi Steve,  
We have the same machines that you described in the county I live in. They give you an indelible pen and you draw a line to complete the arrow next to the candidate you wish to vote for. There is a good space between each candidate listing which further decreases the chance of drawing a line to the wrong choice.  
You are right, when the ballot is fed into the machine it immediately kicks it back out if there is an error. Even if you put it in upside down it will kick it out. An election official sits by the machines and calls out to you if you walk away and it kicks it back out. I have seen them do that. I think they are great. You also have access to immediate results if you desire.  
I am truly surprised that those large counties don't have more up to date equipment.  
Take Care,  
Tim C.
11/18/2000 8:06 PM
Steve A.

I am truly surprised that those large counties don't have more up to date equipment.  
    What is even more frightening is that the questionable machines in Florida might be brand new! Sort of funny that with all of the stories in the media I haven't heard much of the hardware involved... Maybe it is top secret and they are afraid that someone might tamper with the machines if they knew something about them.   ;)   But I do know that the contracts for those machines must have been pretty lucrative! With all of the government regulation on automobiles, etc., I wonder what sort of oversight they have on something as important in our country as voting machines...   :o    
Steve Ahola
11/19/2000 7:51 PM
Steve A.

Sort of funny that with all of the stories in the media I haven't heard much of the hardware involved...  
    I guess I should have read yesterday's paper first! There was an article explaining that in West Palm Beach they had used the "Votomatic Voting System" designed in the early 60's by William Rouverol and Joe Harris at UC Berkeley for use with the IBM "porta-punch" computers.  
    FWIW the two had considered the use of the butterfly design for ballots and "just rejected it as possibly leading to confusion"... BTW the Votomatic is still being used in a third of the counties nationwide. [Bob Suter from Newsday]  
    Seems like the ballots in Duval County were even more confusing because the ten candidates for president were spread across two separate pages... To make matters worse the Democratic volunteers who brought many first-time voters to the polls told them to "be sure and punch a hole on every page". [Raymond Bonner and Josh Barbanel in the NY Times] Oops!  
Steve Ahola  
P.S. Well, with the absentee ballots counted it looks like Dubya gained about 600 votes over Gore. Guess I better I buy some stock in the oil companies!   ;)  

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