November 05, 2002
DMV Disenfranchisement

Meryl Yourish was unable to vote today because of screwups by the Virginia DMV and local election officials. Laurence Simon of Amish Tech Support is not surprised:

Never register through the DMV or any nonpartisan agency. They don't give a flying fuck if you end up getting registered or not.

I'm not surprised either. In 2000, I registered to vote in Ohio by filling out a form at the DMV when I got my license plates several months before the election. One day in mid-October I happened to be walking past the county courthouse on my way to work when it occurred to me that I'd never gotten any confirmation of my registration. I stopped by to check and was not entirely surprised to learn that they had me listed as living at 129 E. Reed when I actually lived at 129 W. Reed. The two addresses are only eight houses apart, but in different precincts, since they are on opposite sides of Main Street. If I had waited until election day, there is a good chance I would not have been able to vote at all, since I would have had to go to the wrong precinct, then the county courthouse, then the right precinct. If the lines were long at any of those places, as they likely were on election day, there would not have been time to fix the problem before the polls closed. The Amish guy is right: never trust the DMV with your voting rights. Selma and Patti Bouvier are not caricatures.

By the way, my town in Ohio used exactly the same kind of punch-card voting machines as Florida. Anyone who can't figure out how to punch out the right chads and vote for the intended candidates is a moron.

Posted by Dr. Weevil at November 05, 2002 11:36 PM

I was an election judge today for a precinct on the north side of Chicago. We use the same punch card ballots too, and there were a great many number of voters who complained that the ballots were confusing.

About 2/3 of all ballots were recorded by the counter as having over and undervoted, but only a few people, after being informed of this fact on the spot, chose to even bother re-voting (most of the undervotes were probably intentional; lots of folks only vote for the major candidates). Most said to hell with it.

I can't understand how anyone could possibly make the ballots any easier, but people screwed it up consistently. By the way, the precinct's finally tally for all offices were about 80% Dem, 15% Rep and 5% other. Maybe that has something to do with it.

Posted by: Lawrence Haws on November 6, 2002 12:07 AM

We're Americans. We're smart. We're the innovators of the world. We're those scrappy mutts who just keep on trying harder and harder until we're free. We should be able to come up with ways to make things simple as using a telephone or a fork and knife or a flush toilet.

If people can't figure out how to poke holes in something, they need to spend another year in Kingergarten.

Posted by: Laurence Simon on November 6, 2002 07:27 PM

Georgia DMV has quickly & accurately registered me two times now. But maybe I'm lucky.

Posted by: Whackadoodle on November 6, 2002 07:28 PM

BTW, here in Dekalb County we had new voting machines: fancy touch-screen video units. The worked very smoothly. I don't know what would have happended in the end if I hadn't entered a vote for all races/propositions. The last screen was a summary of what you had voted on and how, and any race/questions you hadn't voted on were outlined in red. I voted on everything, so I don't know what the machine would have done if you didn't mark a complete ballot.

Previously we've had butterfly ballots, which I've never had a problem with either. I guess the $50 million was worth it for the new machines, though. . . .

Posted by: Whackadoodle on November 6, 2002 07:33 PM

For those idiots that just can't manage to handle the punch card ballots, maybe there should be one created especially for them; an 11" x 17" card with candidates' names in B-I-G letters in nice neat rows, one name to a row. All they have to do to vote for the candidate of their choice is to take a fork and poke the tines THROUGH THE NAME OF THE CANDIDATE OF THEIR CHOICE. Simple, no?

Posted by: Bashir Gemayel on November 7, 2002 11:07 AM

Personally, I think the touch screen machines sound like the simplest thing... I've read a few articles by people who claim it's more insecure than paper ballots, but none of those people seemed to know the first thing about encryption or network security... It seems to me that the easiest and most secure way to do it is walking up to a monitor, touching the names of the people you want to vote for, hit submit.. review your ballot and submit for the final time. Information could dump directly into a secure database.

Posted by: amy on November 7, 2002 12:06 PM

There was an article by a local encryption and computing expect a while back on the idea of electronic voting and how Harris County was completely blowing the implementation. Dan Wallach, I think it was.

Worth a look-see.

Posted by: Laurence Simon on November 7, 2002 12:46 PM

I'd be content if someone would stick a fork in Terry McAuliffe. He's done. In fact, he's overdone.

Posted by: CGHill on November 7, 2002 01:26 PM

Call me wacky, and I do have some mixed feelings about it, but I do believe morons are citizens. And that completely illiterate people have a right to vote.

It's a real issue: are you actually for intelligence and literacy tests for voting rights, or do you think everyone not judged incompetent has a right to a vote? Which is to say, we do have a bare minimum, but would you favor raising it, and if so,how high?

Posted by: Gary Farber on November 8, 2002 09:30 PM

Oh, and need I point out the interesting history, and uses, of "literacy tests" to vote?

Posted by: Gary Farber on November 8, 2002 09:32 PM

Most of the times I have voted I have used punch cards. I never had a problem with it, but then again I tend to follow the directions.

Posted by: Michael Orris on November 9, 2002 04:32 PM


I'm not in favor of literacy tests. I am in favor of people asking pollworkers for help if they are the least bit confused about how the ballot or machine works. And I'm still extremely dubious about the hundreds of Floridians who claim to know that they voted for Buchanan by mistake. How could you possibly know that unless you actually looked closely enough at the ballot to know you were wrong before you put it in the slot, but then put it in the slot anyway? Who would do that?

And I am a little queasy about the idea that anyone who has not been judged incompetent has a right to vote. I've heard too many stories about party activists going to the old folks' home and getting totally senile people to 'fill out' absentee ballots.

Posted by: Dr. Weevil on November 11, 2002 09:11 PM