Richard C. Balough


VOL. XXIII • Spring 2005 • NO. 3 (table of contents)

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23 John Marshall J. of Comp. & Info. Law 491


A lot of things have changed since the early memories of going into the voting booth, which at that time was the old mechanical machines, and pulled those levers down. It was taught that you have to vote because each vote was going to make a difference, each vote was going to be recorded and tallied. The voting which was done on Election Day, the way one voted was going to affect our democracy.

Of course during that time there were also a lot of other things happening that ran counter to this ideal, stories including police intimidation especially in black neighborhoods, poll watchers timing the voters even allegations that in 1960, in the Kennedy-Nixon presidential race, the Mayor of Chicago, Daley, was waiting for the results from downstate Illinois before he released the vote count in Chicago. Other instances included the August 1948 Democratic Party runoff to determine the candidate for a Senate race when in Jim Wells County Texas, the records showed that the last 201 people to vote happened to vote in alphabetical order, the exact same order in which their names appeared on the voter registration roll resulting in Lyndon Baines Johnson winning the Democratic nomination. However, underlying all this was the belief that eventually all votes will get counted and these glitches are harmless.

This myth was shattered in 2000 when it was found that many votes really do not get counted and the fact that that inherent in the overall system is a margin of error is higher than the margin by which someone is elected or defeated. Part of the reaction was to turn to technology to solve that problem. In 2002, Congress passed the Help America Vote Act (“HAVA”). But problems regarding security, privacy, intimidation by the technology itself and trust in the system remained.

All of these issues are examined in the “E-Election 2004” Symposium and need to be placed into perspective. We need to stop and remember what we are trying to do—what all of this is trying to accomplish: Which is to find a better way to ensure that our votes count and to instill in the public the feeling that their votes will be counted. The transfer of power in a democracy must be made in a way and in a manner that people respect and trust. When that respect and trust disappears, so too will the success of the transfer of power.

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