Post-New Hampshire: Will Every Vote Count?

The news recently has been all voting, all the time. As candidates make epic tours of diners, churches, and city halls, papers and TV screens are chock full of pictures of politicians giving hugs and kissing babies. There's news about Hillary's teary eyes on the campaign trail and the difference the weather made in the New Hampshire primary. But in all the hoopla and campaign coverage, one aspect of the primary season has been surprisingly underdiscussed -- that of the process of voting itself.

Until this past Sunday, that is. The New York Times Magazine featured a lengthy article on voting machines, telling the story of a system rife with problems that we still manage to use to determine hair-splittingly close elections. The Times reports,


"In the last three election cycles, touch-screen machines have become one of the most mysterious and divisive elements in modern electoral politics. Introduced after the 2000 hanging-chad debacle, the machines were originally intended to add clarity to election results. But in hundreds of instances, the result has been precisely the opposite: they fail unpredictably, and in extremely strange ways; voters report that their choices 'flip' from one candidate to another before their eyes; machines crash or begin to count backward; votes simply vanish."
The voting problems in the article range from the almost-funny (In a town in Arkansas, "touch-screen machines tallied zero votes for one mayoral candidate in 2006 -- even though he's pretty sure he voted for himself") to the downright frustrating. In Cuyahoga County, Ohio, for example, the server that tallied the results from Diebold machines crashed several times. The next day, 10 of the races had to be recounted because they were so close. But, because so many printers in the machines had jammed, Cuyahoga didn't have paper copies of the votes that had been lost in the crash.

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