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Touch-Screen Voting Pushes the Envelope

October 28, 2002

Touch-screen voting last week (my first time doing it) was a bit frustrating. The on-screen ballot did not match the sample ballot in layout or content. On screen, the page breaks were different, and the easy-reference punch numbers were missing. This slowed me down. The machines' huge screen and type size diminished the secrecy of voters' ballots. As soon as I entered the room, I could see the layout and choice pattern of someone else's ballot. (A poll worker said that was because the voter chose to sit.) With such big, bright screens, each machine should get a booth with a curtain. Election workers should at least turn the machines around so that each screen faces a wall and people don't stand behind voters.

The software was good but not great. A scroll button you might use to verify your selections is right next to the "cast ballot" button, which you might thus hit by accident. If you go back to cast a missing vote, you cannot return to your vote summary screen without going page by page to the end of the ballot. In this era of software bugs, accounting fraud and occasional blackouts, it would have been nice to see a real ballot go into a locked box. Still, I like to master computers and found satisfaction in completing the touch-screen process.

David A. Holtzman

West Los Angeles

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