First, an issue I have long thought about. I think that the option to cast a straight party ballot should be removed. Voters should be voting for candidates, not parties. I have no objections to a voter going down the ballot and voting only for the candidates from a single party, but they should be required to go down the ballot, not just cast a straight party ticket.
On to my reactions.
I have never used the electronic voting machines before and I was pleasantly surprised by one feature – I got to read the printout of my ballot before it was officially cast. I thought that was great. Assuming that the very paper I read (but could not touch since it was behind a window in the voting machine) is the same paper that would be read in the event of a manual recount, or an audit of the votes (which I believe/hope is mandatory) then I am confident that there is no way, short of collusion, to manipulate actual votes cast.
This means that the machines cannot be responsible for any problems related to the results of an election where they are used. Admittedly this only applies to this model of voting machine. I can’t speak for any other model. This also says nothing about efforts which discourage voters from casting votes or efforts which seek to disenfranchise specific portions of the electorate. Those are separate problems.
As for the ballot itself – I was disappointed with the number of offices in which there was no Democratic candidate. It is a sad statement when one of the major parties fails to even field a candidate. The worst section of the ballot was where I got to “vote” for county officials. Almost without exception, at the county level there was a Republican candidate running unopposed. I don’t mean no to say there was no Democratic challenger, I mean no challenger at all. If it were not for the fact that we could put challengers on the ballot it would be like voting for Saddam Hussein when he was in power in Iraq – no challenger means that he won between 95% and 100% of the vote – it’s not an election.