On Mega-Tuesday Iasked to use the electronic voting machine at my local voting place, and I did so. This is my third such vote, and I remain puzzled by the hostility to new voting tehcnology. I do not doubt that some touch-screen machines are vulnerable, but it is not as if the older technologies have been foolproof. The future is surely with the touch-screen or some other form of online voting.
So here was my Super-Tuesday thought. We should associate touch-screen voting with touch-screen ATM machines. Banks have won over consumers to these machines, and though they occasionally err, they are far superior to human tellers for simple banking transactions. And much less expensive too - leaving aside the interesting question of how the costs of tellers are passed on, as compared to the more obvious fees associated with cash machines. If hacking dedicated but online machines is so easy, one would think that hackers would focus on ATMs, but in fact our ATM system is quite secure. So why not let voters cast their votes at bank machines? With some effort, a large number of ATMs, perhaps in indoor locations, could double as VMs, or voting machines.
Under one version of this plan, the vestibules and lobbies of banks would become the new polling places. But under another version, voters could first receive a card or number from an election office or polling place and then proceed to any or almost any ATM machine to cast a vote. Election Day might be a banking holiday, and banks might even pay for the right to be an Election Day spot because such identification might imply first-rate security. Under the first plan, we picture election officials serving as gatekeepers at each ATM, much as they do at the polls at present. Dispersed ATMs make this more difficult. Under the second version, where voters receive cards to use at ATM/VMs, the analogy is to absentee ballots or early voting in most states. Whatever fraud we fear from the possibility that a voter will receive the authorization card to cast a vote - and then sell it or transfer it to another, we ought to fear from absentee ballots that are picked up by or mailed to voters. These constitute an increasing proportion of the vote, and I know of no evidence that fraud is a serious problem at this retail level.
It is interesting that despite all the problems with conventional voting technologies, including hanging chads, lost ballots, stolen boxes, and long lines, there is resistance to new technology. I like to think that innovation will come more quickly if it is associated with a related technology that is now so widely accepted.