Computers offer new possibilities for casting votes
What would happen if we went to computerized voting? Would only people with computers be able to vote? Would there be any disadvantages? The simple answer is, if it's done right, computerized voting will be significantly better than paper ballot voting, with no drawbacks at all. In this article I will describe how to do it right and hopefully address all the concerns about the things people might be afraid of.
How it would work
With computerized voting you would have several ways to vote. If you have a computer at home or at the office, you will be able to vote from there. If you don't have a computer you would go to the place where you vote now and vote on the computers provided for you to vote on. Voting at the polls will be as easy as it ever was, even easier.
The computers at the polls will be set up easy to use. The writing on the monitor will be bigger and easier to read that paper ballots. The screen will show you one choice at a time and have instructions. The candidates will be displayed with their names, party, and a picture that the candidate will provide. Clicking the mouse on the name or picture will count as a vote.
After making a vote you will move on to the next race and vote, or, you will be given the option to vote for a straight party ticket. After you have voted for the candidates, you will get to vote on the issues such as tax increases or school bonds. With a computer, there will be an option to display more information about the issue that what would fix on a paper ballot, giving you the option to read more than you normally would.
After you have made all your selections, the computer will display your choices and ask you to confirm that the selection is right. You will have the option to change your vote before confirming the list. Once you are satisfied that your selection is correct, you vote is sent to the election computer which then registers your vote. At that point the system knows you voted and you won't be able to vote twice.
During the election the online computer will keep your vote secret and won't total the votes until the election is over. It will however give real time numbers as to the total people who have voted, and what areas and age groups are voting. Real time graphs online display areas of the city, state, and country showing turnout and age group information.
Within minutes after the polls close the computer totals the votes and the winner is displayed. Information is instantly available about what the totals were for each area. No waiting into the night for the results to be counted. The computers count it all up instantly.
Another advantage of electronic voting is that no one candidate would be on the "top" of the ballot. The computers would rotate the positions of the candidates so as to give every candidate a place at the top an equal number of times. That solves the problem with fighting to be first and issues of advantages of placement. This makes the process a little fairer than a paper ballot.
The computer can offer you choices you couldn't do with paper ballots. With electronic voting, you could selects a second choice in a three way race. Here's how it would work:
Suppose the election were run on a computer in 1992 when President Clinton was elected. A lot of people wanted to vote for Perot, but didn't want to waste their vote on someone who didn't have a chance. Electronic voting can eliminate that problem by allowing you to have a second choice. With a second choice option, you would vote for one candidate and a second choice candidate, At the end of the voting period when the polls close, the computer adds up all the first choice votes. If a candidate get more than 50% of the vote, he is the winner. But if no candidate gets 50% of the vote then the candidate that got the least number of votes is dropped. All the votes for that person are replaced with the second choice vote and the votes are recalculated. The person with the most votes wins.
So, let's say that you want to vote Perot, but you're worried that Clinton might beat Bush. As it is now you would vote Bush to keep Clinton from winning. But with this new system, you could vote Perot and vote Bush as your second choice. That way if Perot came in last, but Clinton didn't get 50%, you vote isn't lost. All the Perot votes are lost and your vote turns into a vote for Bush. The computer instantly recounts the votes and declares Clinton still won. But Perot would have got more votes in the initial round than he would have got. Perhaps Perot might have beat Bush and Bush would have been dropped by the computer. With the second choice, you get to vote for who you want, yet with the second choice option, you can still vote defensively.
You wouldn't have to make a second choice vote if you didn't want to. For dumb people, they will still have the same choices as they have now. But the smart voter will be able to click on "advanced voting" and get second choice options. Those who don't make a second choice vote who vote for Perot, in this example, would lose their vote on the second round of calculations. The Bush and Clinton votes would be unaffected. Only the lowest vote getter is switched to the second choice or dropped. (Understanding, of course if Clinton came in last then he would lose his votes to the second choice.)
In a 4 way race you would get the option of a third choice. Say that Forbes ran as an independent and came in last. You vote for Forbes first, Perot second, and Bush third. On the first round, no one has 50%. Forbes comes in last. All the Forbes votes are dropped and you vote turns into a Perot vote. The computer recalculates the three remaining candidates and no one yet has 50%, but Perot is last. This time Perot is dropped and all his votes are discarded. The computer then turns your vote into a Bush vote, and this time Bush wins.
This process will eliminate the accusations that Perot caused Clinton to win, or Perot would have won if people weren't afraid to waste their vote. It would allow people to vote their conscience without having to worry about causing someone else to get elected by default. This would allow the results to more accurately reflect the will of the people and eliminate questions about what would have happened if ...
Here's another example of how computerized voting can work. A town wants a sales tax increase to fund new school construction. The school board has three proposals for 10, 20, and 30 million dollars. They really want the 30 million dollar one, but think the 10 and 20 million dollar proposals have a better chance of passing. With paper ballots you can only offer one choice which is presented as a yes/no option to the voter. One can only guess which one to present to the voters.
But with electronic voting you can put all the options out there. This will use a radio button election so that you choose one out of four choices. The fourth choice being no tax increase. Lets say that the law says that it takes 50% to pass the new tax. Here's how it works.
The voters are presented with a screen with 4 radio buttons labeled 0, 10, 20, and 30 million dollars. There is also a check box indicating "all or nothing" that is by default not checked. The voters click on the funding level they want and have the option of checking "all or nothing". The idea here is that someone voting for 30 million would have also voted for 20 million if that were the choice, unless "all or nothing" is checked. That indicates the voter believes if it's not fully funded, they don't want to pass it.
When the polls close the computer adds up the vote. If 50% voted for 30 million, then 30 million wins. However, if 30 million fails to get 50% then the votes for 30 million are added to the votes for 20 million, except for the 30 million votes with "all or nothing" checked. If the total reached 50% the 20 million wins. If not, then the 20 and 30 million votes are added to the 10 million, except for the "all or nothing" votes for 20 and 30 million. If the total is 50% then 10 million wins. Otherwise 0 wins and no taxes are raised.
As you can see, the results better reflects the will of the people and the people are given more options to choose from. The voters can choose all or nothing so as to prevent voting for under funding, and they aren't denied a higher option because the school board was afraid to ask for that much. On the other hand, voters aren't forced to vote for 30 million when 10 million will do the job. Instead of a yes/no option, the voters have more choices, and the will of the people is more accurately expressed.
For those of us who are against taxes, it can work in our favor too. We could vote to cut taxes and give the voters 4 optional tax cuts. If it were a sales tax cut it could be offered as a choice of 0, 1/8, 1/4, or 3/8 cents tax cut. The same rules would apply.
Here's another example. The city want's to build an industrial park. One location is on the East side of town. The other location is on the West side of town. Some people don't want the industrial park at all. On a paper ballot the city council would vote and choose to put only the West side option on the ballot with a yes/no choice.
With electronic voting all three options are on the ballot. A second choice option is available. Voter A wants the industrial park and prefers the East side. He votes East and selects West as his second choice. Voter B doesn't want an industrial park and votes No for the first choice and doesn't make a second choice vote. Voter C would rather not have the industrial park but if it passes, want's it on the West side. She votes No and votes West for a second choice. 50% is required to win.
The computer adds up the choices. If any of the three get 50% on the first round, that choice wins. However, the vote come in and east is first, no is second, and west is third. In this case the west vote is dropped and the second choices are recalculated. Most of the people who voted west voted no for a second choice. When the computer recalculates the vote, No is the winner.
The number of people voting will increase because there will be more places to vote. People can vote from their homes. Hospitals will be able to provide computers to patients to vote. Absentee ballots will no longer be necessary as people will be able to vote while on vacation. The disabled will be able to vote because they can vote from their homes. With voice recognition and talking ballots the blind will be able to vote. Large print on the screens will help people with visual problems. Students will be able to vote from their classrooms or dorm rooms. Employees can vote from their cubical. Everyone will get a fairer shot at expressing their political view.