Early Voters Test New Machines

The UC Irvine early voting booth collected its last vote on Oct. 29. The booth was part of a larger county wide effort to assist the area’s residents in casting their votes before election day.
Early voting throughout the county was established to give voters an option to avoid the long lines on election day and give those who will be out of town on Nov. 2 an alternative to the absentee ballot.
Harry Carpenter, a 1988 UCI alumnus, came to UCI to vote early.
‘I had to go out of town and I didn’t want to miss [the general election],’ Carpenter said.
The electronic voting was done on eSlate devices, portable voting machines that look like large gray suitcases. Every night the machines would be be folded so that voting could resume the next day.
The machines have rotary dials that are used to select candidates and propositions. Orange County officials chose rotary dials over the touch screen that San Bernardino and Los Angeles County have adopted, due to their durability and greater ease of use for the disabled.
A fear that was echoed throughout the early voting process was the possibility that the machines could be hacked.
However, Dan Orsini, a computer programmer at the Extension building, had faith in the early voting system.
‘I have more confidence in this [voting system] than in people determining hanging chads,’ Orsini said, referring to the 2000 election.
Brett Rowley, early voting manager of the Orange County Registrar of Voters, assured that the early voting system is secure.
‘The votes are sealed and all the systems are locked up and secure,’ Rowley said.
One precaution of the system is that votes are stored in three different locations; the eSlate has one memory slot and the administrator’s [overseer] computer has two memory banks to which the eSlates are connected.
The main computer is connected via a phone line to the voters database where the eligible voters’ information is kept. Once voting has taken place, their account is nullified to avoid double voting.
Carpenter commented that the old punch system was too archaic and that he preferred the electronic system.
Orsini also preferred the electronic system, but said that the system could be improved.
‘The only way it could be better was if it was a touch screen,’ Orsini said.
James Garcia, a third-year social science major, was impressed by the ease of the early electronic voting system, which he believes gives voters flexibility in terms of when they want to vote.
‘An entire month of early voting is a relief for those who are intimidated by one-day windows [for general elections],’ Garcia said.
Garcia also pointed out the pros and cons of an absentee ballot and early voting.
‘An absentee ballot is nice because there’s less pressure at home, but if you know who you are voting for, [electronic voting] is real easy,’ Garcia said.
Early voting isn’t a new phenomenon, according to Rowley. It has already been implemented in other parts of California and the rest of the nation, but is new to Orange County.
According to the Orange County Registrar of Voters Web site, the passage of voting legislation after the problems with the 2000 election means that national law now forbids use of the punch card system.
With this change, it is easier to integrate many languages into the electronic system and give accessibility to people with disabilities, such as the blind.