The electronic voting machine — the ATM of democracy — was the clear wave of the future a mere decade ago. After the nation, was thrown into electoral chaos by the 2000 Election of The Hanging Chads, Congress fronted the states billions of dollars through the Help America Vote Act to develop new technologies that would avoid a replay of those woes.
But that was then, and this is now. Now, the electronic voting machines that Utah and most other states invested so much money and faith in have already been pronounced obsolete. They were expensive, sometimes balky and, most important of all, highly mistrusted by many who feared that they could be hacked by one party or the other as a 21st century way of stealing elections.
As explained in a Salt Lake Tribune article Monday, manufacturers are no longer making such machines and, as a result, it will soon be difficult or impossible to get service or spare parts for the ones that have been in use. And, without a pot of money from Uncle Sam at the ready, states and counties will have to come up with yet another way to conduct the primary act of democratic government.
The front-runner may well be a mixture of the old and the new. It stands a good chance of not only working, but also of significantly increasing the number of people who participate in each and every election.
Voting by mail is already common in many places and available to voters in many other areas, including Salt Lake County. It is the means chosen by Salt Lake City to conduct the current advisory election on the proposal from the group Move To Amend which, if adopted, would put the city on record as opposing the concept of corporate personhood and in favor of regulating campaign contributions.
The city recorder’s office has the responsibility for tabulating those votes, and the choice of whether to do it by hand or to use electronic scanning machines will be made as it becomes clear just how many ballots there are to be counted. (Ballots must be postmarked, or returned, by Sept. 26.)
A mail ballot, tabulated in more populous counties by scanning machines, shows great promise. Receiving a ballot in the mail gives each voter much more time to consider, even study, candidates and ballot questions at their leisure.
By automatically sending a ballot to every qualified elector, voters do not have to squeeze in a trip to their local polling place on a particular work day and not be stuck waiting in line for hours, as was the case in many places last Election Day.
More voters, who have been given more time to consider their choices, can only enhance democracy.
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