I was reading this piece in ArsTechnica this morning and was reminded once more why voting electronically does not work – at all. In the French case, there was an inconsistency between polling locations which use electronic voting and those using conventional paper ballots. In some cases this discrepancy is as high as 30% of all ballots cast. In the Irish case, there was no way of verifying the votes cast after the module storing the votes had been taken from the voting machine. As a result, we get the mothballing of a system that no one wanted in the first place hanging around like a bad smell for years to come.
But there is one other thing about electronic voting: the personal connection. Walking to the polling station to vote No to the Lisbon Treaty in the last month reminded me that there is a human pleasure in casting a vote. (They’ve started calling them voting places here now.) There is a sense that with the direct connection in being given a piece of paper, confirmed on a list and walking to the booth to make my mark, that what I do matters in some small way. There is the holding of the pencil and making the physical mark on the paper that makes a difference to my own connection with the process that cannot be mediated by the pressing of buttons and the remote storage of bits and bytes. I need not tell other bloggers how the computer they type their posts with makes them change the way text is written, in a process from their own imaginations to the screen in front of them. The same goes for the process of voting in a booth. With declining numbers of people voting, it might be a good idea to begin to pay attention to the very meaning of the vote.