The First Thing to Know Before You Vote

The First Thing to Know Before You Vote

Taryn Williford
Nov 4, 2008

Well, you should probably know who you want to vote for, so maybe this is the second thing to know. As you could tell by Maxwell's sincere apologies for any advertisements for parties or political platforms that might have shown up on Unplggd, we are not in the business of endorsing candidates. But we do like to encourage our readers to get out and vote. If you've already voted early or absentee, then awesome! But if you're heading out to the polls today, we wanted to bring you this article from DVICE about common mistakes made with the various voting system technologies. (I personally wanted to be the one to bring you this article because I'm from Florida: now known as the "hanging chad" state.) For every one of the five basic voting technologies used today, there are ways for voters to make honest mistakes...

  • Optical Scan: Unlike the ones you used for the SAT, you are allowed to fill out an optical-scan election ballot with an ink pen, but tests have shown that some machines can misread ink marked ballots due to the reflectivity of the ink. While ink might sound more resistant to tampering, experts recommend sticking with that good old-fashioned No. 2 pencil.
  • Electronic Touchscreen: It's hard to make simple mistakes with a properly functioning touchscreen voting machine, so just double check your selections on the display to make sure that the names listed are the same ones you entered.
  • Lever Machines: Today will mark the last hurrah for this ancient technology still being used in New York State. The biggest problem tends to be with ballot initiatives, as the levers for them are often stuck down in one of the lower corners of the panel. On election day, make sure you don't miss any levers for a contest you want to vote in.
  • Punch Cards: Just like the old lever machines in New York, this is another ancient technology that's thankfully on the way out. If you're an Idaho voter facing one of these, make sure that your stylus is lined up with the correct hole, and that you make each hole firmly and deliberately. Then make sure you get rid of all the punched chads.
  • Hand-Counted Paper Ballot: Not to be confused with optically scanned paper ballots, hand-counted paper ballots are about as simple and tech-free as it gets. Marking your ballot clearly and unambiguously is obviously a no-brainer, but the main thing to watch for is that you don't mistakenly mark more than one person for a single office.

[ Image from joebeone@Flickr ]

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