The joys of computing and politics

On top of the news that Governor Perry halted  IBM’s data center work with dozens of state agencies while the state reviews the problems with lost data, voters in Houston learned that the new voting machines weren’t registering votes the way they thought and feared that their votes may have been lost. A story in the Houston Chronicle reported that voters who first choose the straight ticket option and then select a vote for their presidential candidate are erasing their vote for president while keeping their votes for party candidates in other races. This is especially confusing since some national media sources had been reporting that machines in North Carolina required voters to cast separate vote for president even if they had already chosen the straight ticket option.

The eSlate machines used in Houston generate summary screens voters can use to confirm their votes. However, with so many judicial and other races on the ballot in Houston voters in some areas have to go through three summary screens to review all their votes. While voters may ask for assistance from poll workers, my experience was that the poll workers were more mystified by the electronic machines than I was.

Of course, there are other fears that Texans have about computer voting. With no paper trail to confirm the results from machines some Texans are worried about what happens to their vote. I’m betting that combining citizens’ fears of technology with voters distrust of government will produce some interesting days for poll workers.

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