We're having a primary election in California today. I have a tradition (hey, two times counts as a tradition) of walking to my polling place, which is about a block away at Del Mar High School. Turnout is projected to be a record low 34%, but when I went there around 6PM it was decently busy, and I needed to wait a few minutes for a booth to open.
I want to write a long post sometime about electronic voting and paper trails - I feel that as a programmer with a strong CS background, as well as a political nerd, I stand a shot at explaining why this is such a crucial issue. The summary of such a post would be that electronic voting is an excellent idea which would offer huge benefits in accuracy, but as currently implemented by various companies it is absolutely frightening. We need to produce electronic voting machines based on secure operating environments running peer-reviewed code; give the software the same scrutiny Boeing uses on its navigation computers. As an interim measure, we need to use paper ballots to protect and respond to abuses; however, with ideally designed machines paper ballots will not be necessary.
All that to say, the machines we used at my polling place today are absolutely wonderful, by far the best I've ever seen. After the poll workers check you off a list, they hand you a card with a magnetic stripe that has recorded your party affiliation. You insert the card into the machine, which then presents you with several screens of touch-screen ballots; of course, you can review and change your votes at any point. One you are done, you press a button called "Print Ballot." This causes the machine to print a paper receipt, much like from a grocery store; it is under glass so you can't touch it, but you can clearly read everything on it. You then have buttons to accept or reject it; if you accept, it scrolls out of view and the machine returns the card to you.
I just love this setup. It combines the best aspects of electronic voting (clear screens, the security of knowing you made the choice you thought you made, rapid tabulation) with the crucial audit trail of paper voting. Like I said, I don't think paper ballots would be necessary in an ideal voting environment, but I could get used to this.
I'm going to share how I voted on major races. I do so for two reasons: first, discussing your vote seemed taboo when I was growing up, and I'm all about testing taboos; second, most of my readers are outside California and so this won't mean anything to you anyways.
Here we go:
Governor: Steve Westley. (Millionaire and former eBay executive; currently the state comptroller. He's much more moderate than his opponent Phil Angelides, has a better chance of beating Schwarzenegger in November, and seems likely to actually work with Republicans in the Legislature rather than demonize them like Angelides.)
Lieutenant Governor: Jackie Speier. Because the San Jose Mercury-News told me so.
Secretary of State: Debra Bowen. Because the San Francisco Chronicle told me so.
Controller: John Chiang. See above.
Treasurer: Bill Lockyer. Only choice on the ballot!
Attorney General: Jerry Brown. What can I say; I love the guy! I'd love to see him hold statewide office again while I'm living here.
Insurance Commissioner: Cruz Bustamante. He didn't endear himself to me during the recall, but he got the endorsements, and the other candidate seems really marginal.
Prop 81: Yes. I'm all about libraries, too. They're one of the best ways we have to spend public money.
Prop 82: No. Taxing the rich to fund preschool sounds great, but there are too many problems with this... inflexibility in how the program is run, plus the fact I'd much rather tax the rich to deal with our deficit than this. Noble aim, horrible execution.
Mayor of San Jose: David Pandori. I'm not totally up on all my local issues yet, but he seems to be the one candidate most opposed to sprawl. He also mailed out this excellent book called "A Better San Jose" instead of the tons of flyers everyone else sent; it's surprisingly deep, with fairly detailed plans to take on gangs, improve finances, and protect open space. My only real hesitation is that he's opposed to BART, but assuming Measure A passes, I hope he'll accept the will of the people.
Measure A: Yes. I would have voted yes multiple times if I could. I'm totally willing to pay more sales taxes in return for one day being able to ride BART all the way from San Jose into San Francisco. It's nice to fund public health and stuff, too.
Measure B: Yes. Remember how District 200 voters would vote down bonds? Not me.
That's it for now. Totally random closing thought: I'm probably the only guy who's ever gotten hungry reading "Fast Food Nation."
UPDATE 6/7/06: I am box office poison! Of the three votes I cared about most, exactly none of them went my way.
Governor: Angelides won the primary. I really don't like him. He's probably better than Schwarzenegger, but his fiscal proposals really frighten me. I'll cool off for a month or so and see what happens.
Mayor: Pandori got knocked out of the race, which is now a two-way between Chuck Reed (very principled but too conservative and developer-friendly) and Cindy Chavez (tainted by scandal, a firm ally of labor, good track record of achievement). I'll probably back Chavez come November.
Measure A: Nooooo! San Jose, how could you?
Some of the other ones went my way. Prop 82 was defeated; Jerry Brown got the nod for AG (though honestly, I don't know what his chances are for the election). That's about it, really. Even the ones I just voted for because of a newspaper endorsement didn't fare so well, Jackie Spier lost out to someone named John Garamendi. And apparently Californians hate libraries. Sigh. Well, hopefully November will do better.