I’m a fairly left-leaning Democrat who recently moved to a predominantly conservative Republican voting district and I never miss an election, not even primaries. So dutifully last month I went and cast my vote on a brand-new fully accessible electronic machine.
Let’s see … liberals like me are supposed to be against electronic voting machines because most don’t have a “paper trail”. Also, many liberals and, frankly, others are concerned with the ethical questions raised by hefty donations from a high-ranking official of Diebold Election Systems to conservative candidates. Diebold is one of the largest manufacturers of this new type of voting equipment.
I guess that means conservatives should be for these machines because the machines might be able to flip votes to the right – which, suggest some on the left, may have helped Dub-ya “steal” two elections in a row. This conservative support for the machines could be inferred by the double-evidence of contributions linked to Diebold pouring into conservative coffers and Diebold-friendly legislation flowing out of the pre-Pelosi legislature.
Now let’s mix in some disability politics. We all know by now that many of our advocates are for these new machines because they’re accessible, allowing some to vote independently for the first time in their lives. The American Association of People with Disabilities is a major supporter of these machines being made available in every poll site. AAPD -- according to the New York Times -- accepted a hefty donation from voting machine manufacturers a few years ago.
Other disability rights advocates are wondering why the hell our advocacy groups are pandering to the far right so much that, at least once, one of our groups actually took money from such a partisan corporation as Diebold. This is an interesting assumption -- many advocates assume AAPD took money from Diebold. But AAPD says that's not so -- the money was taken from other voting machine manufacturers. These advocates also point to disability groups that supported conservative judges for the Supreme Court and took the side of Schiavo’s parents as proof the movement’s gone a bit, er, reddish.
Me? I pushed past the picket of red placards, signed my name for the blue party and asked to use the electronic machine. Because I’m no Luddite and conspiracy theories, while amusing, leave me cold. And these machines are the future. And I like that everyone can use them equally. And the one at my poll site is kind of cool. It’s got this wheel you turn, kind of like a patriotic Wii.
“Are you sure dear?,” asked the grandmotherly voting official who hardly looked like a liberal-hating neo-con at all. “Most people here just use the paper ballots.”
I do not understand why so many states picked Diebold machines (unless because of kickbacks). In Michigan there were 5 machines under consideration and they were used by hundreds of people with disabilities to determine their preferences. Most people I spoke preferred the AutoMark. Blind people. People with poor hand control. People with cognitive disabilities. And people who wanted a paper trail. Yessiree the Automark has a paper trail. It actually inks a regular ballot - just through accessible means - like using a touch screen, hearing the ballot read aloud and having a Braille keypad.
Accessibility does not mean you have to forego the papertrail - you just have to purchase the right machine. Thankfully I live in a state that did. Susan