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Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Officially Observing

A couple of weeks ago, I got a call from Rex Quidilla at the Hawaii State Office of Elections, wondering if I’d be interested in being an official observer for the upcoming primary and general elections. I’m the type of guy who gets excited by the prospect of jury duty, so I quickly agreed.

It’s a program the Office conducts every election, to help keep the democratic process open and honest—state law requires that at least one member from each political party, as well as the news media (that would be me), independently test the voting machines and monitor the ballot counting on election day.

The initial training meeting was last night, and I’ll be spending a couple Saturdays putting the voting machines through their paces, making sure they’re not spitting out hinky results. And then on the primary and general election days, I and the other observers will be underneath the state Capitol, keeping an eye on the counting center as ballot results pour in.

This part will even be similar to jury duty, in that we’ll be sequestered in the counting center the entire day—no cell phones, no laptops, no contact with the outside world until the vote tallies are complete. It’s going to be great.

As an observer, I don’t seriously expect to catch a man in a stocking cap sneaking around stuffing ballot boxes, but it’s gratifying to have even a small part in keeping the whole process fair and open. With so many crooked elections taking place around the world, it’s nothing to take for granted.

I’m particularly looking forward to the opportunity to get up-close-and-personal with the new ballot counting machines, which record votes digitally and store them on a compact flash card. I’ve always been leery about electronic voting machines, perhaps irrationally. I’m as geeky as they come about cool new technology, but when it comes to elections, there’s just something comforting about paper trails, about physical holes being punched in cards, hanging chad and all. It’ll be interesting to see how a hands-on inspection will influence my feelings on the new voting tech.



Posted on Wednesday, August 13, 2008 in Permalink

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About This Blog

Senior Writer Michael Keany has worked at HONOLULU Magazine since 2004, covering everything from architecture to entertainment. He’s a graduate of UH’s School of Journalism and lives in McCully. He blogs about Hawaii architecture, history and urban planning.

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