TELECOM Digest OnLine - Sorted: Re: Lever Voting Machines - What's Wrong?

Re: Lever Voting Machines - What's Wrong?

Shalom Septimus (druggist@p0b0x.c0m)
Thu, 04 Nov 2004 15:59:52 -0500

On 2 Nov 2004 19:47:13 -0800, (Lisa Hancock)

> Another advtg is that you enter the machine with an open curtain, pull
> a master lever to close it and open the machine to accept your votes,
> then pull the master again to record your final votes and open the
> curtain. The curtains are large and fully enclosed -- it appears that
> modern electronic machines have very tiny curtains or just a small
> divider, limiting voter privacy.

I, too, remember voting on those old machines, and I loved them. New
York City bought a load of them in 1960, and are using them to this

Now I live in New Jersey, and the electronic machines we have here
just don't have the same feel. Yes, the ultimate result is the same,
but pushing the little red button and hearing a "beep" doesn't make
you feel like anything of moment had taken place, whereas on those old
beasts, when you pulled that huge lever, the resounding "Ka-Chonk!"
really gave you a feeling of accomplishment: by $DEITY, you knew you'd

But there's been one modification on many of these machines over the
past decade: the big lever doesn't close the curtains anymore. When I
asked why, they said that too many people didn't realise that it also
recorded the vote: as a result, they'd close the curtain, then decide
they had to ask the attendant a question and open it again. Oops, you
just recorded a blank ballot. Now the curtains stay closed, and you
push your way between them, or slide them open and closed by hand.

I would guess that the mechanical design of these machines was
borrowed from railroad engineering: the interlocks that prevent you
for voting for two presidents, or four judges when only three seats
were available, are much the same as the interlocks in the switching
plant preventing you from lining a switch until the associated signal
is clear, or setting up impossible routes, or routes that would have
trains in opposite direction on the same track, etc. Those
interlockings were entirely mechanical for many years, although it's
mostly computerized today on the Class I railroads like Union
Pacific. See _Risks Digest_ 9:58 for a simple setup, and
remember that in yards or along busy main lines they could be much
more complicated.


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