My neighbor and I arrived at the polls at 8:30 this morning, in our Arlington country neighborhood of Shirlington. It took us 1-1/2 hours to vote.
The big machines we used to vote on have been replaced with touch screen machines. It worries me. I realize that the old machines also produced no paper trail, but they were simply electronic, as opposed to digital — the new machines seem like any other computer, completely vulnerable to either hackers or, as seems more likely, the whims of their manufacturers. I took a picture of my vote with my mobile phone, and as I snapped the photo I realized that this act meant nothing. Sure, I could produce that image as proof of how I voted, but my vote is not tagged with my name in the machine. Our whole voting system, by ensuring anonymity, means that votes are not traceable and thus, no one can tell if the votes have been registered correctly.
Here’s what really strange: until 2000, these issue never once crossed my mind. I think that most of us blissfully assumed that our vote was counted and we had made a difference. Now we realize that this is not the case. Just as September 11 woke us up from our long feeling of invulnerability, the 2000 election led to the realization that the system that we thought of as an open democracy is actually at the mercy of the political machine itself.
So tell me: what happens next? If Bush stays in office, if Kerry ascends to president? What are your plans either way?