Book Review - A Margin of Error: Ballots of Straw by Lani Massey Brown
Based on an author request, I accepted a copy of A Margin of Error: Ballots of Straw by Lani Massey Brown for review. The premise was certainly pulled from the headlines of today's elections... Electronic voting machines are forced on a state by officials that may not be totally impartial in the decision. The main techie who is responsible for an error-free election is outspoken over the fact that no means exist to audit the results. But she has to do the best with what she has, and document every procedure and process they have. As the elections get closer, a series of prank/obscene/threatening phone calls escalates for both her and one of her female staff members. A "spy" from the governor's office shows up to make sure she doesn't create waves as the election is manipulated. But the spy gets a case of ethics, sides with the techie (and falls in love in the process), and decides to work with her to blow the lid off of the whole corrupt establishment.
In terms of a plot that may be closer to the truth than we'd like, this book scores. Even as late as this week, it was discovered that one of the main electronic voting machines (all models) have had no audit trail to show when votes were deleted. Of course, the official explanation is "we didn't know, and we're working to fix it now". The truth may well be totally different. Unfortunately, the dialogue of the characters left something to be desired. Cady (the techie) and Neil (the spy) end up using each other's name in almost every sentence, and it makes for some pretty stilted conversational flow. If I'm talking to my boss, I'm certainly not using her name in every other sentence when I'm talking to her. It also took a bit of time to get into the story, as you're not really sure who the voyeur and phone caller is and/or why he's there for quite awhile. I almost felt as if there was an earlier episode that I had missed.
While Margin is not the best novel I've ever read, it was worth it to explore the issue surrounding the transparency and ability of American voters to participate in a free and honest election. We shouldn't let the lessons of Florida and 2004 go to waste.