All voting methods, from paper ballots to punch cards to electronic voting, have their problems. Punch cards can leave hanging chads. Electronic machines may not give you a paper trail and may be more easily hacked. Lever voting machines can get stuck at 99 and may not register your vote. Even lowly paper may have scrutineers who question whether your X really means X. In fact, DVICE has researched every type of machine, identified their weaknesses, and mapped where they all are on an interactive map.
But once you've looked at all current election tech, the next logical question is: What would the ideal voting machine look like? If none of the current technologies are perfect, why not go A-Team on the problem and make a mashup of the best of everything we've got, combining it all into the perfect voting machine? We performed this thought experiment and came up with four key things the ideal voting machine should allow for. Hit Continue for more.
1. Foolproof Ballot Design
Douglas Jones, voting technology expert at the University of Iowa, says most voting scandals involve ballot design, not technology flaws. From Florida's butterfly ballot in 2000 to this election's straight-ticket issues in Texas, design flaws cause more misvotes than anything directly related to the machines themselves. The ideal voting machine would use touchscreen technology — it can present selections more clearly and break down contests into separate screens that voters can scroll through, ensuring that you've made a choice before moving to the next screen.
2. A Paper Trail
Surely we can apply all the knowledge we've learned from coat checks and 50/50 drawings to one of our most important duties as citizens. One of the biggest complaints of voters with new technologies is that they don't get a receipt. Of course, in the days of paper ballots, you didn't get one then, either. But whether it's a touchscreen, an optical scanner or even a punch card, there's no reason you can't get a paper receipt of your choices. The ideal machine would provide a two-piece ballot with a unique serial number — one quickly scannable half that you hand in to the election officials, one easily readable half that you keep. Not only would you have a cooler memento than that "I voted" sticker, you also have a backup in case of recount shenanigans.
3. A Physical Confirmation
In Las Vegas, many slot machines still have handles even though they're fully electronic. Why? People like pulling the handle even though "pressing the spin button or yanking the handle has no bearing on the outcome of a spin," says gaming guru Mark Pilarski. Lever machines, paper balloting and punch cards have the same effect on the voter — you feel like you've done something real. So the ideal machine should have a way to let you feel like you've locked in your vote before moving on to the next choice. Whatever the underlying technology, a slot machine handle would be a plus.
4. Durability and Presence
While lever machines are big and bulky, most touchscreen voting machines aren't much larger than a big laptop. Punch-card machines are even smaller. While portability is a plus, voters are reassured by durability and heft. The ideal machine would balance the two, and be about the size of a small video lottery terminal. To ensure they're efficiently transportable, they should only weigh about 10-15 lbs, with a 15-inch screen. The case would be made of hard plastic with a carrying handle. The original Mac design is a good example.