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Archive for Sunday, September 12, 2004

Touch-screen voting puts faith in computer

September 12, 2004

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Pretty soon you, the American voter, will enter the sacred sanctity of the voting booth and cast your ballot for the next U.S. president. Or, not. It's also possible that your ballot will go back in time and participate in the election of 1848, or wind up in a distant galaxy, helping to elect an alien being with 73 eyeballs (slogan: "A Being of Vision").

The truth is, you don't know WHAT will happen to your ballot, because you might be using one of the new electronic voting machines. These are supposed to eliminate the screw-ups we had in the 2000 election, in which the ballots of thousands of Florida voters were not counted because, due to poor design, many Floridians have the intelligence of a sugar beet.

No, sorry, what I mean is: The ballot was too darned complicated! There were names AND chads, and to figure out which name went with which chad, you had to follow an ARROW, and ... Whew! As a Floridian, I'm getting a headache just THINKING about how complicated it was! I would take an aspirin, if I could figure out how to open the bottle.

So this year many states are switching to electronic voting machines, which use computer technology -- the same reliable, foolproof technology we use in the newspaper industry to wwr )(%$(AT)!(AT)hkjh ou((7%$ ERROR ERROR DELETING EVERYTHING FROM DAWN OF TIME

Whoops! It turns out that things CAN go wrong with computer technology. One big concern is that electronic voting machines could be tampered with by "hackers," as was the case recently when an 11-year-old New Jersey boy named Jason Feeblehonker, using only his GameBoy, was able to get himself elected governor of both North Carolina and Wisconsin. (He's actually doing a decent job, although some state police officers are not thrilled about having to carry lightsabers.)

But aside from that, electronic voting machines are a great idea, according to people who make millions of dollars selling them. Here's how this "high-tech" voting system works:

Inside the voting booth you'll find a "touch screen," which is a computer screen coated with a thin, invisible layer of germs left by all the people who voted ahead of you, many of whom use the sacred sanctity of the voting booth to pick their noses. When you touch this screen, tiny pieces of electricity called "electrons" go shooting into your finger, through your arm and into your brain, where they whiz around until they locate the name of the candidate you wish to vote for; they then transmit this information to Central Voting Command (located in India) along with any legally questionable thoughts you may have regarding terrorism, tax evasion, or sexual fantasies featuring an armadillo and Wayne Newton.

Electronic voting is fast and harmless, unless they get the voltage wrong, in which case an overhead sprinkler system will automatically extinguish any flames in your hair. So there's nothing to worry about! Remember: Before electronic voting was approved for use on humans, it was extensively tested on laboratory hamsters (87 percent for Dennis Kucinich).

So that covers how you're going to vote. The other question is, for whom are you going to vote? The best way to decide this is to watch political TV ads, which present the issues with degree of honesty, nuance and sophistication rarely seen outside of Vego-O-Matic commercials:

(On the screen, we see the CANDIDATE. Next to his face is the word "LEADERSHIP.") ANNOUNCER: Leadership. It isn't just a word. It's a word that tested really well in our focus groups. And it's a word we want you to think about when you think about the Candidate. Also, "low-carb."

(Now we see the candidate's OPPONENT, in an unflattering photograph that makes him look like THE WORLD'S LARGEST GLOB OF EARWAX)

ANNOUNCER: The Opponent favors policies that could cause the Earth to rotate in the opposite direction, causing all life on the planet to hurtle into space and die. Is that "really" what Americans want?

(Now we see the CANDIDATE standing in an attractive outdoor setting with his WIFE AND CHILDREN.)

CANDIDATE: I want to lead America in the right direction. That's why I'm standing with my family on this lawn. And that's why I approve of this message.

DIRECTOR: Cut!

CANDIDATE: Which one is this message again?

DIRECTOR (checking script): Leadership.

CANDIDATE: Oh.

CANDIDATE'S WIFE: This lawn has biting ants.

Yes, voters, by the end of this campaign you'll be so well-informed that you may flee to Paraguay. But I urge you to stay, because on Nov. 2, you have an opportunity -- and a sacred trust -- to help choose the person who will lead this nation for the next for years. Jason Feeblehonker.

-- Dave Barry is a humor columnist for the Miami Herald.

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