“Satisfaction guaranteed or your money back” -
Pen and Paper vs. Electronic Voting Machine
I love fall! At this time of year, in the Midwest where I grew up, leaves are already changing color. I remember walking home from school, shuffling merrily through crackling mounds of leaves, conveniently piled at the curb. The air smelled like burning leaves (and those infernal blowers had not yet been invented).
I loved shopping for school clothes. I dithered every year about exactly what to wear on that first day of school, when we were all eager to make a good impression – ostensibly, on our teachers, but really on one another.
Most of all, I loved getting new school supplies. I relished the chance to wander the aisles of my favorite stores, carefully perusing before finally choosing the best pens and pencils, the most pristine packages of notebook paper, the coolest notebook, and the book bag with the most pockets.
Even getting a new Chandler’s assignment notebook was a thrill, its very emptiness hinting of promise. Back then, Chandler’s came in only one or two colors. Nevertheless, picking out a new one to fill up signaled, in a tangible way, a fresh start. I was so eager with anticipation that I usually tossed and turned the night before the first day of school. Those were the days!
Fast forward to the present. I no longer take my children, now grown up, to buy school supplies. Apparently, however, I have subconsciously refused to let go of this annual ritual. This may explain why, at the tail end of summer, I feel an irresistible urge to head out for office supplies.
I’m sure that all professionals obsess about their tools of the trade. Being a writer, I am very particular about the writing implements I use. I check each item carefully. If I have a choice, I prefer not to buy goods made in China. I also check to see if the manufacturer offers any warranties or guarantees of quality.
I'm going to reproduce below the exact wording of the guarantees I saw, for reasons that will become apparent later.
• Zebra Pen Corp. (Indonesia): Zebra Pen Corp. guarantees the performance of this writing instrument. If it fails to perform properly, please return it to Zebra Pen Corp. for repair or replacement.
• Sharpie highlighter, (USA): If your product does not perform properly, please return for replacement.
• BIC pens (France): If you are not satisfied with the performance of this product, please return it to BIC and we will gladly replace it at no cost to you.
• Parker pens (USA): Your PARKER writing instrument is guaranteed for two years from the date of original purchase against defects in materials or workmanship. If found to be defective within the warranty period, your PARKER product will be repaired or replaced free of charge.
• Foray ballpoint pens (India): Our products have been tested by third party, independent research specialists and are guaranteed to be free of defects in materials and workmanship, or your money back!
On this shopping trip, I spent no more than $20 for a year’s supply of pens. The most expensive item I bought cost just a few dollars. Yet each package came with a guarantee. Right there in black and white: Satisfaction guaranteed, via repair, exchange, or refund.
Our infamous electronic voting machines, on the other hand, come with no such guarantees. Remind me again, just why the companies that design them can't stand behind their products or give us our money back? Exactly what kind of contracts did our designated representatives sign, what was in the small print, and what kind of accountability was written in there (or not)? We should examine those contracts and see what we all signed on for. That information has not been made readily available to the public. I wonder why not.
Privatizing our elections was a bad idea and investing in electronic voting machines has proven to be a colossal waste of money. Our voting system, with machines that constantly malfunction and remain vulnerable to hacking, is both unworkable and fiscally irresponsible. We're not just talking about machinery; we're talking about the vote-counting apparatus that is the basis of our democratic way of life.
High-tech isn’t always better. The pen that NASA began using in 1965 was developed by the Fisher Pen Co., which invested $1 million in its design and production. While the Russian space program now uses those same space pens, the Russians initially solved the problem quite simply – by using grease pencils!