Every time I vote, I wonder why no-one has made what seems to me to be an obvious improvement to voting machine technology.
With the current technology, if I haven't filled in the circle completely enough, my vote isn't counted. If a smudge in one of the other circles is too dark, it will be read as voting for two candidates for the same office, and again, my vote won't be counted. And in both cases, I get no feedback that this has happened.
My improvement is that for each office, in addition to having a circle (or chad to punch out, or line drawn, or whatever your voting technology includes) for each candidate, and a circle for write-ins, there is one additional circle, saying "I am not casting a vote for this office". When the machine reads my ballot, it can then check that exactly one circle is marked in each race (make the obvious adjustments for "vote for two" elections. Then if it reads zero or two circles as being filled, it can give a "bad ballot" signal. The poll officials can then shred the ballot and issue me a new one.
Suppose a misreading (through user error, or machine error) occurs one time in 100. Currently, my vote isn't getting counted one time in 100, and if I'm filling out the ballot in a way that causes more frequent misreadings, I have no way of knowing this. With my suggested enhancement, my vote would only fail to be counted one time in 10,000, and someone who filled in the ballot in a way that caused frequent misreading (checking the circle instead of filling it in, for example) would get feedback that they were doing something wrong.
Why isn't this done? I'm sure (or at least I hope) ballots are carefully inventoried, and it would require a slight complication to this inventory process to account for the shredded ballots. But it seems obviously worth it for the reduction in errors. Has no-one thought of this but me? Or do voting machine manufacturers and those who write election laws just not care about recording votes accurately?
PS If you live in Massachusetts, remember to vote today! All indications are that this will be a close race, so your vote matters.