Election time again

I thought I had been blogging for about a year now, but I see that it has been two - time flies when you are having fun!

I participated in my second election in Germany today (First election rant) as a precinct worker. I was especially looking forward to observing important details about the paper-based election, as I just read the blog entry by Avi Rubin about his harrowing experiences in Maryland this past week.

I have decided indeed that moving to anything electronic would just completely overwhelm many of the voters. So many have difficulty understanding that they have 4 sheets and need to make 4 crosses and then identify themselves and then drop in their votes, folded in the election booth so that we can't see it. There were so many things that could go wrong just with paper, when I start to imagine all the things that can go wrong electronically, I get the chills.

The big problem was the referendum about the referendum. The government had sent every voter a copy of a page explaining why the referendum change had been agreed on by all of the parties and included the old and new text on the back. Not that anyone reads anything the government sends you.... many waiting in line asked what the referendum was about - I noted that they were actually holding the description in their hands. Oh. Then people popped back out of the cabin to ask if crossing yes meant they were for or against making referendums easier.... Some just gave up, ripped up that page and pitched it. We had a lot of invalid ones on this question, and the choices were just yes / no / make the ballot invalid.

We had an amazing number of people who wanted to take their kids into the voting booth with them. We had let the first few do it, but the kids got curious and wandered behind the other booth, or tried to get at the toys (the polling place was in a public kindergarten) and then the parents had to go behind the other booth to drag their kids out. This is not real cool when you are trying to conduct a secret election.

So we voted that children that can move of their own locomotion cannot enter into the voting room, but can stand just outside and watch Mommy and/or Daddy. Amazingly, so many people got angry at this and hollered at us. Two couples - who purportedly wanted to demonstrate how to be a good democratic citizen to their kids - got so mad that they returned their ballots and left the polling place without voting. I wonder what exactly this lesson for their kids was supposed to be: How to have a temper tantrum in public as an adult? If I don't get to play by my rules I take my marbles and go home? Democracy is really important unless it makes me do something I don't want to?

Absolutely childish.

I was really impressed by the handicapped people who didn't go for voting by mail, but made the supreme effort to come down and vote in person. Hurrah for them!

We ended up counting all of the 4 elections umpteen times, we were always off by one. And no, I don't want a computer to do this for me and be off by 1000, just by chance. We made it. We survived.

Berlin has a neck to neck race for the Social Democrats to have the Leftist Party or the Greens as their partners. In Sweden the Social Democrats seem to have lost power completely (they have been head honchos for something like 48 of the past 50 years....). What scares the stuffing out of me is over 7% of the vote in the state of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern went to the NPD. That is so scary. Wehret den Anfängen!


Anonymous said...

quite frankly, if governments can't figure out a secure way of voting electronically, we should be wanting to outlaw all online transactions with them (tax work, in particular). In fact, all online financial transactions should be outlawed. To me, the whole hoopla about electronic voting seems ridiculous. Voters should not have to go to vote at an (insecure) computer at a polling station, but rather one should be able to vote conveniently by mail, by phone, by email.

WiseWoman said...

I beg to differ - Rebecca Mercuri, who did her dissertation on eVoting (suggesting a paper trail as vital) has since come to the opinion that it is impossible to guarantee what is needed in voting: anonymity, verifiability, accountability, etc. etc. using anything but paper. You have to make sure that the person is eligible to vote, is not being coerced, they need to verify that they voted correctly, and it must be anonymous and verifiable, that the results are correct.

It is also cheaper to vote - and gives you some exercise, getting to the polling place :)