Have you had a machine curse at you lately? Iâ€™m sure a few people remember reports of malfunctioning Tickle Me Elmos who some parents claimed were corrupting their children, and thereâ€™s also the Smurf toy who apparently says, â€œI like it when you cut me,â€ but these are probably nothing more than really, really funny figments of Middle American breedersâ€™ imaginations. After all, major toymakers undoubtedly spend millions on testing and quality control to make sure their fun products are wholesome and safe… well, mostly safe.
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But, I digress. This is not about kidsâ€™ toys, but rather the adult playthings of democracy: voting machines. I work in the Department of Elections of a major American city â€“ letâ€™s call it Fran Sancisco â€“ and recently have been put to work testing our new voting machines. To conform to federal standards, the Department is placing an accessible voting machine at every polling place for the upcoming June 6 primaries.
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â€œAccessibleâ€ in this case means the machines are made for use by voters with disabilities, i.e., mobility problems or impaired vision â€“ voters who would otherwise have trouble marking a ballot by hand. You can see one here, but the thing is basically an oversized O.G. Nintendo without the fun of Duck Hunt or Hudsonâ€™s Adventure Island. However, unlike the beloved Japanese video game system of the 80â€™s, our new voting machines come up with non sequiturs worthy of David Duke at a NAACP benefit dinner â€“ sorry, Iâ€™m getting ahead of myself.
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The machine works like this: you (the disabled voter) â€“ or a friendly and helpful poll worker
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â€“ feed your party-specific paper ballot into a slot in the front, and the thing then processes the info on this sheet. Upon reading the ballot (supposing it doesnâ€™t freak out, jam, or reject it, as it often does) the machine produces a touch-screen read-out of the contents of the ballot, first with an instruction screen, then the consecutive contests, one-by-one. Imagine an ATM where you choose â€œNancy Pelosiâ€ instead of â€œ$40 Quick Cash from Checking.â€
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Other than the touch-screen function, the machine also has an interface for various devices used by the disabled, like a â€œsip puff,â€ and an audio script for the blind. In our recent days of testing, it has been the computer-voiced script that has provided the most entertainment, shock, and awe.
Fran Sancisco, as some may know, is located in the great state of California. Our governor is pretty well-known; the man is a (correctly pronounced) household name in American places where they canâ€™t say â€œtortillaâ€ right. I would imagine this includes Omaha, Nebraska, home of the company that provides our voting machines. I was the first of our small staff to proof a Republican ballot for the upcoming election and found otherwise.
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The damn thing said the n-word at me. And my coworkers. And boss. Even the Director of Elections. In a tinny little vocoder staccato:
â€œAr-nold Sch-war-zuh- n*****â€
I thought I was completely desensitized to the word (and most other things) by now, but hearing it in that dinky See nâ€™ Say voice was pretty startling. Imagine how a blind voter would react. Imagine how a blind black voter would react.
Voting machines are controversial because people are afraid of them being tampered with. Although these machines keep a paper trail on a visible little receipt-sized roll, I believe voter fraud is plausible. Itâ€™s happened before, and not so far from this fair city. But what Iâ€™m worried about now is sheer incompetence.
The one racial slur in the audio script isnâ€™t the sole problem with these machines. They are also supposed to
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function in Chinese and Spanish, as Fran San has sizeable numbers of Cantonese and Latino voters. However, the Chinese is sprayed across the screen like confetti, and the Spanish audio comes out so slow and slurred weâ€™ve name the voice â€œJuan Borracho.â€ When navigating this mess, the picture that emerges is a system whose vendors did zilch to check for operability. There was simply no quality control.
As far as I can figure, the argument for privatizing government functions, like providing electricity or elections, is that market competition improves quality and discourages fiscal waste. The city has spent millions on a contract for hundreds of voting machines that, in their current state, will (maybe) offend blind Republicans, and disenfranchise any disabled voters dependent on second language. In outsourcing elections into the private sector, it seems to have created even less accountability.
So, to all cialis for sale \ buy viagra online \ mexican pharmacy \ online pharmacy \ generic viagra online \ cialis dosage those conspiracy theorists out there: have no fear of highly organized corporate cabals handing their rich benefactors elected office. Not in this town, anyway. Instead worry about the omnipresent modern menace of the half-assed job.
And racist trilingual Nintendos.
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