Who's ahead on voting

The speed that can be gained from electronic voting systems should never trump accuracy

Earlier this month, 128 million voters in Brazil took to the
polls to cast votes in mayoral elections, using an all-electronic
voting system that tabulates votes and turns out results faster
than you can say “Dewey defeats Truman.” Even in the
Amazon basin, voting was strictly electronic. Other countries have
adopted a similar approach.

Meanwhile in the United States, voters next month will use a mix
of systems, ranging from beleaguered electronic touch screens to
old-fashioned paper ballots in a few precincts. In California, a
majority of voters will return to a paper-and-optical-scan system.
Results will come in...when they come in.

But is that really so bad? The reason many U.S. jurisdictions
have eschewed electronic systems is because of concerns about
accuracy. There are many examples of e-voting gone haywire. In an
election, accuracy should trump speed, no matter how much the news
outlets want a winner before bedtime — there are 77 days from
the election to the inauguration, after all.

The sometimes-messy debate here over voting systems is far from
being resolved, but at least it’s about getting the vote
counts right. Other countries can have speed; this is one case
where we might be taking a step forward by taking a technological
step back.

About the Author

Kevin McCaney is a former editor of Defense Systems and GCN.

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