Deus ex Machina

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Date: Tue Nov 14 2000 - 22:55:27 PST

A friend of mine is visiting from tallahassee. she tells me about her friend
who has an obscurely defined position (her words) at a weekly county
newspaper, the gadsden county times. (gadsden is a small county in what's
known as "the big bend" area of florida - just west of our capital but still
too east to be called the panhandle. (friendly digression: if florida is the
penis of the united states, what is texas?))

when the first recount was ordered because of the .5% rule, a few hundred
ballots that had been kicked out by the machine were set aside in the current
supervisor of elections' desk drawer. these were not part of the first tally.
 the *new* supervisor of elections, who will take office in January 2001,
discovered the ballots. the current supervisor wanted to ignore the rejected
ballots, but the new one argued, in essence, "we have to look at these, you
freaking moron!" after heated discussion, the new supervisor (a woman)
prevailed. the ballots were examined. both supervisors are democrats.

the gadsden county ballots are not the chadded variety. they are similar to
lotto or LSAT cards; you show your choice by blackening a circle. over a
hundred of those rejected by the machine had a pinpoint in one or more
circle, where one can imagine a voter might have pogo-penciled her way over
to her choice. the real choice was obvious, blackened thoroughly.

this particular machine, while neither democrat nor republican, could not
distinguish between the pinprick and the dot. in gadsden, when the machine
failed in its assignment to read ballots they utilized a backup: the human
eye, developed over eons by a team of quality assurance engineers who
included in their design the ability to evaluate a mark as either pinprick or
blackened circle. to eliminate as "too subjective" the more sublime
instrument is just so dark ages.

the election is not *just* a test and the ballot is not *just* a scancard.
the test analogy is popular but flawed. every voter has already passed a
test. every voter won the right to vote; it should not have to be re-won
over shortcomings of ballot or machine or even the individual voter herself.


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