Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Historic Vote

On this history-making election day, I went to my polling place to vote at 2 PM to avoid long lines. Inside the voting booth, I made a picture of the lever voting machine. Although these machines have been out of production since 1982, these machines are still in extremely widespread use. They completely eliminate most of the approaches to manipulating the vote count and they can easily be configured to handle a complex general election ballot. A lever voting machine completely eliminates all questions of ballot interpretation. At the time the voter opens the machine's curtain to leave the voting machine, it adds one to the counter behind each lever that was pulled down by the voter, and then it resets all the levers. 
From the New York Times:
Regardless of who wins on Tuesday, the election will make history. If Mr. Obama is elected, he will become the nation’s first African-American president. If Mr. McCain wins, his running mate will be the first woman elected vice president.
Presidential elections are really 51 separate contests waged in each state and the District of Columbia, and for Mr. Obama and Mr. McCain, the day was all about trying to win enough of those states to secure the 270 electoral-college votes needed to win the presidency.
Looming over the race was the unpopular Republican president, George W. Bush, whose approval ratings are hovering at record lows after he started a war in Iraq that many Americans concluded was a mistake and presided during an financial crisis this fall that left millions of people worrying about their mortgages and retirement savings.
Mr. Obama, 47, a first-term Democratic senator from Illinois, premised his candidacy on change, arguing that he would turn the page on President Bush’s policies and make the country respected again at home and abroad. Mr. McCain, 72, a son and grandson of admirals who was held as a prisoner of war in Vietnam for five and a half years, ran as the candidate with the most experience to be commander-in-chief, but he also argued that he had a track record of bucking his own party and would bring change to Washington as well.
The two men offered starkly different policy proposals. Mr. Obama called for ending American involvement in the war in Iraq over a period of about 16 months, while Mr. McCain called for continuing the fight until victory was achieved. Mr. Obama wanted to roll back President Bush’s tax cuts for the wealthy while cutting taxes for the middle class; Mr. McCain wanted to extend the Bush tax cuts and add tax cuts for businesses. Mr. Obama wanted to use government money to expand health insurance for the uninsured, and to require coverage for all children, while Mr. McCain wanted to give individuals tax credits toward buying private insurance coverage.
In some areas, both men promised a break from the Bush administration, even if they differed on the details. Both agreed that global warming was real, and promised to take steps to reduce it; both pledged to close the detention center at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, and both were outspoken in condemning torture after reports of waterboarding and other abuse of prisoners at the hands of American captors surfaced in recent years.
During the long, grueling campaign, Mr. Obama repeatedly claimed that a McCain presidency would effectively represent a third term for Mr. Bush. And while Mr. McCain has at times been a thorn in Mr. Bush’s side, as a presidential candidate he was proposing to continue enough of Mr. Bush’s policies, from tax cuts to the Iraq war, that the charge seemed to stick.
Mr. McCain, for his part, painted Mr. Obama as unprepared, noting that only four years ago he was still a member of the Illinois State Senate, and tried to sow doubts about him as still largely an unknown quantity.
Beyond the big issues, there were plenty of fleeting, insubstantial controversies as well. Mr. McCain mocked Mr. Obama as a substance-free celebrity, and Mr. Obama mocked Mr. McCain for being unable to remember how many homes he owned. At times the contest grew ugly, with Mr. McCain all but suggesting that Mr. Obama was a socialist for his tax-cut proposal, and Ms. Palin accusing Mr. Obama of “palling around with terrorists” for working sporadically with a former 1960s radical.
It was a presidential campaign that shattered all kinds of records, from the number of votes cast during the long, bitterly contested primary and caucus season to the huge amounts of money raised and spent on the general election after Mr. Obama withdrew his pledge to accept public financing of his campaign.
Each candidate went through lean periods when he was considered a long shot for his party’s nomination, only to prevail in the end. Mr. McCain overcame the implosion of his campaign in the summer 2007, which left him out of money and all but written off, by persevering and winning the New Hampshire primary. Mr. Obama was put on his path to the nomination by winning the Iowa caucuses, but the Democratic primary season became a long, drawn-out battle for delegates with Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York.
It was a year when the running mates took on great importance. Mr. Obama, who was new to national politics, tapped a more experienced hand, Mr. Biden, as his running mate, picking someone with extensive foreign policy experience but a propensity for the occasional gaffe. Mr. McCain chose Ms. Palin, a first-term governor not widely known outside Alaska, arguing that her willingness to buck her party elders there made her a perfect fit for him. The choice galvanized social conservatives who had long been wary of McCain, but turned off some independents who came to view her as unprepared.
If both Mr. Obama and Mr. McCain were chosen by the parties in large part because of their positions on the Iraq war — Mr. Obama for opposing it from the beginning, and Mr. McCain for supporting the “surge” strategy that was later credited with reducing violence there — the election quickly turned to pocketbook issues. Four-dollar-a-gallon gasoline prices over the summer provoked outrage, and the worsening economy reached a crisis this fall when the nation’s financial institutions teetered on the brink of collapse and required a huge government bailout.
The family lives of the candidates did not pause for the campaign. One of Mr. McCain’s sons, Jimmy, a Marine, served a tour of duty in Iraq, and Ms. Palin and Mr. Biden each bade farewell to their own Iraq-bound sons during the campaign. Ms. Palin announced on the day the Republican National Convention began that her daughter Bristol, 17, was pregnant and engaged to be married. Mr. Biden’s mother-in-law died last month, and late on Sunday, just before the election, Mr. Obama’s grandmother, Madelyn Dunham, who helped raise him during his teenage years, died in Hawaii.

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