In modern times, the struggle for freedom and independence in the world has been something that the peoples of many nations have lived and died for. The government of the United States, though based on principles of democracy and freedom, is a republic; it is a government in which the citizens elect one of their constituents to represent them, so that the person elected can accurately represent the will of the citizens who put the person in office. More recently, however, there has been wide dispute as to what methods should be used to elect people to varying government offices. There have been many methods proposed, including the utilization of electronic voting and the continued use of paper ballots. Despite heated arguments and debates over which system(s) may be considered the “best” for the purpose of voting, and thus, representing the citizens of the U.S., the most feasible voting system in the modern age is the utilization of the electronic voting system.
Obviously, there are many pros and cons to establishing a single, uniform system of voting in the U.S.; namely the adoption of an electronic national system for elections. To even begin the establishment of a single, uniform system of elections through electronic means would constitute having to revamp every voting system in all 50 states in America. Add to that, each individual precinct in each state would have to install and learn to use the new technology and learn the procedures associated with the new technology, should it fail or simply confuse the voter in question. In the year 2000, there was much controversy over the validity of paper ballots that were counted incorrectly, were unable to be counted as a result of “dimpled chads” or “hanging chads,” or in other words, ballots that were voted on, but were unreadable or simply not marked as indicated; supposedly, “2004 gave us something worse: a system whose accountability is decided by its software developers behind the closed doors of corporate offices (Kaplan).” This, however, is clearly not the case. Electronic voting would eliminate any discrepancies between which candidates the voter actually voted on and the actual vote that the computers and databases receive, and would be a very distinct advantage in regards to expressing the voters’ decisions. As with the most recent elections in the state of Georgia, electronic voting was utilized throughout the entire state, in all voting precincts. One of the significant advantages to this was the fact that the voting booth clearly spelled out how to use the machine, how the machine counted your vote(s) and what the voter could do, should there be any problems with either the machine or the process of actually voting for the candidates for each office. Despite the overwhelming costs of training and actual implementation, this electronic voting system resulted in much less confusion on the behalf of both the voters and the counters of the ballots, which resulted in a more accurate and more exact counting of the ballots collected in each voting precinct.
In recent times, however, there has been much speculation and skepticism towards the effectiveness of e-voting systems. Three years ago, the “2002 Help America Vote Act (HAVA) allocated $3.99 billion to replace punch card ballots, used widely in Florida in 2000 and Ohio in 2000 and 2004, with electronic touch-screen machines. But such machines don't provide hardcopy confirmation of voting and their software remains the property of the companies that make them (Kaplan).” While hardcopy information is indeed not accounted for in e-voting systems, all of the software can be double- and triple-checked to cover any errors made in individual machines and also printed out to be cross-referenced and cross-checked by both human hands and computer processors and databases. As is the case with any voting system, e-voting has met with criticism regarding “assorted issues [that] have emerged and merged: odd voting patterns, suspicious election day activity, voter suppression, ‘spoiled’ ballots and the susceptibility of e-voting machines to errors or, worse, hacking (Corn).” Though hacking is a very feasible possibility, in the Internet age, security in both digital and tangible forms has increased dramatically to ensure that both digital and paper information is accounted for and protected.
The employment of an all-electronic voting system would lead to fewer disputes over whether or not a certain precinct in a certain state counted ballots incorrectly and would also decrease the time for precincts to report the numbers for the number of votes for each candidate. Presidential and state elections alike would be less likely to have instances of voter fraud and confused ballots, as well as represent the people in a manner that would benefit both those electing the candidates and those being elected. In the 2004 election year, “about a third of…voters, in 39 states, cast ballots using electronic voting machines,” indicating the growing popularity of e-voting machines. According to studies done by Caltech/MIT Voting Technology project, “the election, for the most part, had gone smoothly and that electronic voting machines tallied votes more accurately than counts of paper ballots (Foster).” This sets a new precedent for the political landscape; as e-voting systems become more advanced and more secure, voter turnout will likely increase, thereby promoting the inherent pluralism of American society. This pluralism will, in turn, promote the expression of more voters, creating a cycle, which will give more power to the people of America to vote for their candidates and for said candidate to represent an accurate picture of American society.
Technologically, there are still many advantages and disadvantages that hinder the progress and implementation of electronic voting systems. On the one hand, many critics and naysayers of the use of purely electronic voting systems claim that these systems are extremely susceptible to fraud, as well as more modern dangers, such as hackers and general miscommunication between databases and the actual voting machines. Several points are presented by Anna Kaplan that make valid points against e-voting machines:
• In Gahanna, a suburb of Columbus, Ohio, an electronic voting machine gave Bush 4,258 votes to Kerry's 260. But the precinct has only 800 voters, and only 365 of them voted Republican. Votes were recorded onto a malfunctioning cartridge.
• In Florida's Broward County, home to Fort Lauderdale, some tallies were counting backward. After reaching 32,000, the maximum number of votes that that particular software program could handle, the machine started subtracting votes instead of adding them.
• In Cuyahoga County, Ohio, where Cleveland is located, there appeared to be more votes cast than the number of registered voters in the region.
• A precinct in North Carolina lost 4,500 votes because a computer didn't hold as much data as officials originally thought.
• An Indiana county listed each of its precincts as having 300 voters for a total of 22,200 when in reality there's a total of 79,000.
• A voter in northern California had to cast a provisional ballot because someone else had already voted claiming to be him.
• Then, of course, there's that persistent, pesky issue of spoiled ballots of the hanging chad variety–Ohio, after all, is still predominantly punch card country.
Despite all of these points, there are still many advantages that outweigh the disadvantages of electronic voting. One of the most obvious advantages would be the utilization of new technology to reach more voters and thus decrease the margin of error, should there be any fault in either the machines or databases. Nor would there be misrepresentation or lack thereof, as electronic and even Internet voting could eventually be accessible from the comfort and safety of one’s own home. Though several of these technologies are being employed, widespread use and acceptance of such technologies has not yet taken hold during more recent elections on both local and national levels. For the most part, however, paper ballots are being used to vote for candidates, and these ballots are being hand counted by poll workers; this use of manual labor leads to the increased risk of careless errors and miscounted votes.
Socially, politically, and technologically, the acceptance and implementation of electronic voting systems as a national and uniform system for voting in the United States would drastically improve the democratic process as a whole. However, regardless of the method used to vote for elected officials in the U.S., one fact remains: a uniform system for voting must be implemented in the near future in order to reassure the nation that the democratic process still holds and that citizens are given the best representation for an ever-changing and ever-shifting political, social, and technological era.
Evaluation of draft by robertoSmith
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