Saturday, October 28, 2006


Vote on a paper ballot!

My own polling place in San Diego will be using electronic touchscreen voting machines, with no paper trail. This is a huge step backwards; we had (optically scanned) paper ballots in the last election, so a recount was at least theoretically possible. It has been thoroughly documented that touchscreen voting machines are easily hacked. Even if they were 100% reliable, there would be no way to prove that they're reliable. In the best case, they seriously damage the perceived legitimacy of the electoral process.

The following information is specific to California, and some of it to San Diego County.

You can still vote on paper. You can ask for an absentee ballot; if you like, you can turn it in at the polling place on election day. The request must be received by 5pm on October 31. Or, according to some accounts, you can request a paper ballot on election day, but I haven't been able to find an official confirmation of this. You may also be able to vote early; the link on the Secretary of State's web site is broken. (I've notified them; it may be fixed by the time you read this.)

Personally, I'm planning to fax an absentee ballot application today (it may be too late to mail it), and turn in the absentee ballot at my local polling place on election day.

Unfortunately, if the electronic machines are hacked, a few of us voting on paper isn't likely to help much. I want my own vote to be counted, of course, but the important point is that everyone's vote must be counted; if they only need to steal a few votes, they don't need to steal mine. But by voting on paper and making someone count it by hand, I can send a message, and I can make the electronic machines just a bit less convenient.

For San Diego County, here's the application form for an absentee ballot; the fax number is 858-694-2955.

UPDATE: The California Secretary of State's office has fixed the link on its web page. It now points to a PDF document with summary of early voting systems in each county. Under San Diego County, for "Early Voting System" it lists "Diebold AccuVote-TSX". Looks like we'll be using absentee ballots, then.

UPDATE 2: We got our absentee ballots the other day. But it turns out that they're photocopies. They're supposed to be on card stock. Election officials will have to manually copy our votes from the photocopies to official absentee ballots before scanning them. (Thanks to DK at Talking Points Memo for mentioning this.

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