Old Ways are the Best Ways

First Things: Gliches in voting equipment prove that sometimes the old ways are the best ways


| January 2001



As these words are written, we have yet to see a winner named in the presidential election. Still, I feel vindicated. Why? To paraphrase Bill Clinton's campaign team, "It's the technology, stupid."

We may not be able to agree on who should be president, but there's a growing chorus for foolproof voting equipment from those who cast ballots and those who count them. Florida clearly didn't have the right stuff. Nervous voices across the land are calling for something, anything that works. Some are even suggesting online voting, a prospect warming the heart of every 15-year-old hacker in the galaxy.

Sometimes, though, old ways are the best ways. Equipment dating to the Roosevelt era is still in use in Connecticut. An election official there said she would happily and confidently use that equipment for years yet to come. It's simple to use and dependable, she says. The only glitch? Parts. No parts exist for equipment considered antediluvian by those in the industry.

This is where you come in. If there's any audience sympathetic to the need for new old stock parts, it's collectors of vintage farm equipment. If there are any to be found, you're the men for the job. Think of it as a new challenge, but one which, if solved, could save a democracy!

Based on all the, uh, stuff you've found already, you know those parts are out there (shoot, there's probably some in a dark corner of your shed!). Find them, build an inventory, reproduce 'em. It's not such a stretch; you're already doing it with tractors and engines. Think of it as a way to finance your real hobby.

Then, rally your troops: don't send a boy to do a man's job. Have you ever seen the 'service technicians' sent out to fix a copier or a computer? The ones with briefcases? Don't let 'em near the vintage equipment. Send a guy with a toolbox, with some gray in his temples; oil under his fingernails.