On election day here in Jackson, Maine (pop. 555), votes are cast the old-fashioned way:
You go down to the Town Hall. The Town Clerk is there, along with three or four old ladies, who know your name. They issue you a folded paper ballot and direct you to the voting booth, an area with stool and a small table, and a curtain (in Jackson, two people can vote simultaneously). You pencil in your choices, re-fold the ballot, and walk to the ballot box, where a lady watches you drop in your ballot. You say a few cordial words about the weather, or the turnout, and go on your citizenly way.
I suspect that readers will recognize the comforting assumptions we share about voting in Jackson. One's vote is obviously confidential. It clearly matters. If it needs to be re-counted, it can be. The old ladies who monitor the process are not to be messed with.
We're not in the museum just yet, but for all the effect we have on the actual vote count, we might as well be, because nationally, less than 1% of the ballots are cast by means of an actual physical mark made by the individual voter on a paper ballot.
Sixteen years ago we had the "hanging chad" fiasco that gave us presidency of George W. Bush. Since then, issues of accountability and security in voting procedures have not been fixed indeed, more states now rely on electronic voting machines, many of which are connected to the Internet, which makes them inherently vulnerable. According to Verified Voting, twelve states either use electronic voting machines with no auditable paper trail, or a mix of paper ballots and electronic machines with no paper trail. These include battleground states of Florida, Virginia, and Pennsylvania. Scared yet?
I urge every voter in the United States to make sure that his or her vote is counted. We can, and we must, do better than unverifiable touchscreen voting machines. We must DEMAND PAPER.
The ballots exist. States maintain stocks of them for quaint little places like Jackson, Maine, and for absentee and affidavit voting and they've got photocopiers. So here's what we're going to do: we're going to refuse to use a touchscreen voting machine, and demand to vote on a paper ballot. If we're not allowed to do that, we'll congregate around the polling place, creating a traffic jam and a news event. Once that happens, we've got it made: if some voters asking for paper ballots are accommodated, and others are not, then the latter are denied equal protection of the laws.
No doubt there are legal and logistical fine points to be worked out in this strategy, but you get the idea. Districts, start your printing presses! This is the election year that American voters DEMAND PAPER!
Make your voice heard and VOTE!
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LINDY DAVIES was Program Director of the Henry George Institute and Editor of the Georgist Journal. He was the author of The Alodia Scrapbook, the fictitious story of how a struggling African nation used Geoism to set itself on the path to prosperity, and of the novel The Sassafras Crossing. He managed a successful campaign to get the Henry George Institute's distance-learning program approved by the National College Credit Recommendation Service. He passed away in 2019, and is lovingly remembered by the many people whose lives he touched.