The 2004 vote

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, September 1, 2004

The News-Herald reported recently on the anticipated surge in absentee voting in the coming general election.

Voter Registrar Patsy Parker said that applications for absentee

ballots were far outpacing any time in memory.

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That says two things:

Suffolkians are keenly interested in the hotly contested election between Republican President George W. Bush and Democratic Sen. John F. Kerry.

Many of us have too many demands on our time to head to the polls and cast a ballot in the traditional manner.

It’s wonderful that so many of us are politically aware to know what’s at stake in November – there are two distinct visions of America and her role in the world on the menu – and while we’re in favor of making registration and voting as easy possible in order to encourage greater participation, there need to be limits in place.

A case in point is the current situation in Missouri. In this key battleground state, the secretary of state has decided that Missouri residents who are members of the military and stationed in a combat zone should be allowed to cast their ballot via e-mail.

Under this scheme, the virtual ballots would be compiled by the Pentagon and then forwarded to the Missouri secretary of state for counting.

It sounds great, but it’s not. It’s a system fraught with opportunities for nefarious activity.

For one thing, the ballots would not be encrypted, making hacking not only possible, but probably likely. There has already been an outcry over the ease of tampering with touch-screen voting machines that do not leave a paper trail (used in Suffolk, by the way).

If there’s anything the United States does not need, it’s a system of voting that could call into question the validity of results. After what happened in Florida in 2000, every possible precaution needs to be taken to assure that the results of the November election are absolutely correct and valid.

Other states have implemented or are considering implementing systems similar to that of Missouri. It’s a recipe for disaster and needs to be reconsidered. The sanctity of our process has to be protected.