It doesn’t seem possible that the 2016 elections are only a year away.  I’m glad it is as that will provide time for making sure that there are adequate privacy protections when voters use paper ballots.  For years I voted using an electronic touch-screen machine and never had a problem.  In November, I used a paper ballot that was then optically scanned.  Doing so was easy but raised a privacy concern for me.

Most States and many localities are now using 1 of 2 types of voting equipment or a combination of them.  These are optically scanned paper ballots; a Direct Recording Electronic System (DRE); and a DRE system that also has a printer so voters may confirm their votes before committing them to the computer’s memory.

The privacy problem is with the physical setup for voters using the digitally scanned paper ballots.  Here’s the process used at my local voting site:

  • I got a paper ballot and a manila folder in which to put it after I was done;
  • I went to a long table where there were several 3-sided cardboard partitions arranged;
  • I sat in front of one of the partitions and inked in the boxes next to my voting selections.

Here’s my concern:

  • My ballot was completely exposed since the partitions had no top covers; and
  • The next voter or voters walking to the same table could easily, albeit inadvertently, see my voting selections.

When I was done, I took the manila folder over to a machine where I inserted my ballot face down so it was digitally scanned.

Voters need to feel secure when casting their votes.  Digitally scanned paper ballots may have advantages over the touch-screen and other types of electronic voting machines.   Individuals should not be hesitant about raising concerns with election board officials about the lack of physical privacy if they encounter similar physical arrangements as the one described above.

I did so with the election officials at my polling place and learned that the problem was already under discussion for future elections.