Monday, August 14, 2006

A Damn Good Idea

I got a press release this morning from John Harvey that proposes what seems to be to be a damn good idea: voting centers.

Read the whole thing, then I'll comment after:
Does this picture disturb you?

I recently spoke at a meeting in the Shelby Forest area during the National
Night Out. When I arrived, I was surprised to find a cart with seven of the
new Diebold Voting Machines sitting there. This picture was taken two days
prior to the election, as NNO was Tuesday, August 1st and the election was
on the third. The building where these machines was located has no security
and is unattended. I wonder how many other precincts were in that same
condition. Given all the questions surrounding the voting machines and how
easy it is to hack
1.html> , why would the election commission continue down this path?

This is just another reason we need to go to a "Voting Center" Concept.
Security of these machines should be of paramount importance. That doesn't
appear to be the case though. With 279 different locations, the logistics
are insane.

Voting Centers - Currently we use a precinct system where you have to go to
the exact precinct that you are registered in to vote. That system dates
back to a technology-less environment. Today we use the "voting center"
concept for early voting, then revert to precincts on election day. Voting
centers would allow any voter to vote at any center, just like during early
voting. Once you vote, your record is flagged as having voted and you cannot
vote again. It's database 101 technology.

By implementing a "voting center" concept, we would be able to:
1. Scale back the number of locations to a manageable number.
2. Since we would have a smaller number of locations we could find
qualified, trainable staff.
3. Provide voters with a more efficient and voter friendly system. (who
cares where you vote?)
4. Ensure voting machine security by not delivering the machines until the
last minute.
5. Political parties would be able to find enough poll watchers to man the
voting centers, candidates could also cover them more easily.
6. Eliminate the problems which occur when a precinct is added or
eliminated. People would just vote, and not have to worry about where.

If the Shelby County Election Commission doesn't do anything else, this is
an idea that needs to be implemented. The public's faith in the process
demands a change.
As he notes, this is just the early voting model revamped for Election Day. The Election Commission is already set up for queries of their database by voting stations during early voting, so that's not an issue. It would also result in less paper waste, as you'd only need to print a few hard-copy voting rolls per center, as a backup to the database query.

If you've voted, you've also likely noticed that the same folks volunteer year after year. They are already seniors, in most cases, and will be passing from us as the years go by. Re-aligning things into voting centers will, as John notes, give the County the ability to have a smaller, better trained, possibly better-paid, staff.

If there's a downside, I don't see it. It certainly meets the needs of Memphis' highly mobile black community, and the demands of the modern workforce. The only other thing I might consider is to make all elections, where possible, fall on Saturdays.

This idea deserves serious consideration and some big-name political leaders behind it to start the push to make it happen.

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