I recently watched a documentary called "Invisible Ballots ". In it, investigative reporters, election reformers and computer scientists offer a compelling argument against the use of paperless electronic systems in our elections. Invisible Ballots should be required viewing for all election officials --especially those who make purchasing decisions.
Most people were shocked by what we learned during the drawn-out presidential election of 2000. We learned our voting system routinely fails to count hundreds of thousands of votes in our national elections. We learned that electronic voting machines in one Florida precinct could register a negative 16,022 votes for one candidate. We learned that our election system was a disaster.
Seizing the opportunity, the Bush Administration managed to turn that disaster into a windfall of tax payer dollars for friends and supporters, while advancing the Republican stranglehold on the voting process."Two Republican dominated corporations, Election Systems & Software (ES&S), and Diebold Voting Systems, now control 80% of the vote count in the United States " --Lynn Landes, Portland Independent Media Center, 8/24/03
In the guise of voting reform the Bush Administration pushed the "Helping America Vote Act (HAVA) " through Congress, allocating $3.86 billion to overhaul America's voting infrastructure. HAVA required the Federal Election Assistance Commission (EAC) to develop standards to help states meet HAVA requirements. The EAC was to complete this by January 1, 2004; so the states could have their new voting systems in place by January 1, 2006.
But, for some reason, President Bush failed to appoint members to the EAC for more than nine months --making it impossible for the EAC to meet its deadline for providing the new voting system standards. The Republican congress refused to appropriate the HAVA authorized money for pilot programs and technology improvements in 2003. Then, to make matters worse, the EAC received only 12% of the money authorized for its operation in 2004.
Now, even though the EAC was about two years behind in developing the voting system standards, the Bush Justice Department has declared that HAVA "unambiguously requires " the states to have their new voting systems ready in time to meet the January 1, 2006 deadline."There is a stampede to spend millions (actually billions) of tax dollars before the January 1st deadline and there is little guidance on what to buy or how reliable it is. Defying all logic, the guidelines will come out after January 1st. In the biggest irony, at the same time that some municipalities are making big purchases, others who already had problems with these machines are discarding them. " --Joan Brunwasser, election reformer, 11/21/05 (If you or your group would like to see the documentary, Invisible Ballots; email Joan at CountEveryVote@gmail.com
What should state election officials do? The voting machine companies say, "Time 's running out on those big federal dollars, so you better hurry and buy our voting machines. We 'll worry about getting everything fixed later ". I have a better idea. Let 's consider how the electronic voting systems have been performing since the 2000 election.
In Scurry County, Texas an incorrect ballot program caused a suspicious landslide victory for two county commissioners. When the ballots were counted by hand, the opposition candidates won by large margins. (Houston Chronicle, 11/8/02)
"In the 2002 election, brand new computer voting systems used in Florida lost over 100,000 votes due to a software error. Errors and irregularities were also reported in New Jersey, Missouri, Georgia, Texas, and at least 10 other states. " --Rep. Rush Holt (D-NJ), press release, January, 2003
The 2003 election in Boone County, IA, the electronic vote-counting equipment indicated more than 140,000 votes had been cast in a county with only 50,000 residents.
In Franklin County, Ohio election, the electronic voting machines gave Bush 3,893 votes in a precinct where only 638 voters cast ballots. (Akron Beacon Journal, 11/5/04)
In Mercer County, Pennsylvania, a touch-screen voting machine recorded only 51 votes for president out of 289 ballots cast. (Vindicator, 11/6/04)
In Jasper County, South Dakota, election officials noticed that there were 1500 more votes recorded than 298 voters who actually cast ballots. (Carolina Morning News, 7/19/04)
Four and a half months after the 2005 election in Medford, Wisconsin, a consulting firm discovered that ES&S had programmed the optical scanners incorrectly and more than a quarter of 2,256 ballots cast had not been counted. (Marshfield News-Herald. 3/12/04)
In Cobb County, Georgia, the final tally showed that 285 ballots were completely blank. The margin of victory was less than half that number. (Marietta Daily Journal Online, 9/29/05)
"Incorrect software programming has now been identified in over 100 elections, often flipping the race to the wrong candidate, even when the election was not close. No one knows how many elections have actually been misprogrammed, and as we eliminate paper ballots, no one will ever know. " --Bev Harris, author of Black Box Voting: Ballot-Tampering in the 21st Century, BuzzFlash Interview, 10/1/03
These are not isolated incidents. There are literally thousands of these incidents. For more examples, listed by state and/or equipment type, visit votersunite.org." Some errors are eventually corrected by hand-counting the ballots, but when paperless electronic voting machines are used --too bad! There is no way to check the vote counts or correct any mistakes. So what should election officials do? It is not very often that such an important question has such a simple answer, but this one does.
"An MIT/Cal Tech study done in 2001 shows that manually counted paper ballots are the most accurate system out of the 5 systems used in the last 4 presidential elections. They are totally verifiable, and first-world nations across the globe still use them, including Canada which counted their last presidential election in four hours. " --Victoria Collier, t r u t h o u t.com, 10/25/03
We must simplify our voting system --not make it more complicated, more expensive, and less accurate. Machines are not the answer.
It doesn 't matter what your political position is on anything, if your vote doesn 't count. --Bev Harris, founder of Black Box voting, Invisible Ballots