Newsday columnist Ellis Hedican asks a good question: If we can trust banks to get millions of ATM transactions correct with a paper receipt every single time, why can't we trust the process of counting our votes?

A big computer somewhere in the bowels of Citibank recorded my every twitch. I am sure of it. One hundred dollars is gone from my checking account. The date, time and place of my transaction are recorded for eternity. And when the monthly statement is mailed to my apartment, every last detail will be right there in black and white. I know this from experience.

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Because bank's computer systems aren't built by people with a vested interest in ensuring one result?

Because you can dispute an erroneous charge at your local branch?

Because you have, at the end of each transaction, a paper trail (which I believe many of the electronic voting systems lack)?

Because it's the bank's primary goal to deal with money, and they do it all the time, and have lots of practice with it?

Because your vote is probably more important to you than your $100?

Because your money doesn't just disappear, it goes somewhere so that it can be tracked down, and double-checked later?

Whoa! You might as well say that only people with checking accounts and enough credit to have ATM access should be allowed to vote. Or only people willing to pay a $1.50 "transaction fee" should be allowed to vote. ATMs are so cost-effective specifically because they "disenfranchise" a whole class of "risky" citizens and are funded by their users. Republicans might agree that we should use the same criteria to decide who gets to vote, but I wouldn't expect you to.

I'm not praising ATMs for their cost efficiency; I'm praising their reliability . We should have a process we trust at the voting booth as much as we trust ATMs.

You are over looking an important aspect of ATMs. Every user of an ATM is required to indentify themselves by entering in a password. The banks then have a record of who you are exactly what transaction you made on the machine, along with when and where. They also have video tape of you making the tranaction.

Are you saying we should do away with secret ballots in America? That all voters should identify themselves on their ballots, so there will be a permanent record who each individual voter voted for, along with a record of the time and location where the voting was done, and a video record of each voter casting his or her ballot?

Wasn't there an episode of The Simpsons where it was revealed that city hall kept records of each identified voter and who they voted for?

A former ATM programmer who left me an e-mail made a similar point: We want a full audit trail of our financial transactions but would never accept one of our votes.

There's already an audit trail of when we've registered and what party we claimed. There may even be one for when we've voted (though not the particular candidate). As long as the actual vote remains secret, I don't think that it would necessarily be a bad idea to keep track of everything else.

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