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November 07, 2006

Eslate, a Silicon Valley Mom's High Tech Voting Adventure

EslateOrginally published on the Silicon Valley Moms Blog

I was still so disgusted by the Florida voting debacle where problems with the dimple, chad and butterfly ballots threw off the election, that I decided this year I would be completely paperless. And my life is so busy as a mom, who has time to keep track of the paper documents anyway. So I set off on my first adventure with a paperless election process. llll

7130e_gen_landing_new And I finally found a voter guide that agreed with all of my own opinions in a post from our blog. I emailed that to myself so I could view that guide from my blackberry  while I was voting (instead of filling out the form sent in the mail with the sample ballot). 

I went to the polls this morning armed with my blackberry and determined to try the new E-voting (eSlate) machine. If a techie mom can't use that machine, then who can? I saw other people waiting in line look at the eslate machine and then choose the old fashioned ballot instead. The machine was under a tarp and it did look ominous. I wondered what goes on under the tarp? Once I tell the registrants that I will be using the machine there is no turning back, so will I be able to use it?

I gathered my courage and told them I would use the machine. The other people in line stared at me like I was crazy. The man behind the desk handed me an instruction manual which just added more stress to what I was already feeling. I said, "I used to be a programmer and programmers NEVER read manuals so I will just see what happens. Anyway, I did look over the instructions on-line".  He gave me a confused look but allowed me to move on to the "machine".

The eSlate machine has a screen on the top that looks very similar to the paper ballots and some buttons on the bottom. I played for a second and realized that I only really needed to use a select wheel that took me from field to field and the enter button to select. There were even previous and next buttons to move backwards and forwards if you wanted to go back and make a change (really cool). I used the select wheel to move through all the selections, and used the enter button to make my selection. The current field is also highlighted in red so it is easy to spot. When you are done, it lists all of your choices and allows you to review  them (and make changes if needed) before you hit the cast ballot button which is final. I reviewed my choices and hit cast ballot.  I found the experience easier then I thought it would be. And there is a paper trail to view while voting, a printer is installed in the eslate that prints the ballot while you are reviewing your on line summary. 

Afterwards I read that some machines had system problems. I did not see any at our voting station, but Sarah said in her post that there is still a chance that the vote recorded may not be the same as the vote printed (cast) so it is up to each voter to verify their votes.  And she also suggested joining the Verified Voting Foundation. With all of that in mind, this mom will still take system problems and voting verification over chad, dimpled, or butterfly ballot problems anytime.

Are there any other Moms who would like to share their voting adventures, paperless or paper-filled?

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