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October 20, 2008

Snopes confirms danger of Straight Ticket Voting (STV)

By Joan Brunwasser

Ellen went to a tremendous amount of trouble to gather the information for the 15 states that use STV.It is provided at the VotersUnite!website. Nevertheless,her advice would be: avoid using STV.Vote for each and every race individually,even if it takes a little longer.This is a clear case of more convenient not being better.Avoid Straight Ticket Voting!Help spread the word to the millions in the 15 states that offer STV.

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Snopes confirms danger of Straight Ticket Voting (STV)

Most of us have run across Snopes in its 13-year history.  It has become the most well-known website to investigate urban legends, rumors, and myths.  On numerous occasions, I have been saved from passing on unsubstantiated claims by a timely look at Snopes.  

This weekend, I got an email from my brother, John.  He was passing along something that he had received from a friend.  It was Snopes’ validation of citizens’ concerns about STV – Straight Ticket Voting.

Having sounded the alarm for years about the perils of electronic voting, I was thrilled that such a well-respected source chose to deal with even one aspect of this subject. As far as I know, this is Snopes’ first foray into election issues.

Before I overreacted, though, I wanted to check out the specifics included in the Snopes report.  I sent the link around to various people in the election integrity movement and got a clear consensus that, while Snopes’ article was a great attention-grabber, the VotersUnite! article by Ellen Theisen is superior, offering more detail and is ultimately more useful.

I spoke with Ellen this morning.  She pointed out that votes get lost in every election, for a variety of reasons, including straight ticket voting.  It is impossible to know exactly which ones, where, or even how many are lost or changed.  Just today, an article in the Houston Chronicle tells of early voters who voted a Democratic STV and saw their presidential vote flip to John McCain.  

Ellen has talked to numerous election officials across the country.  She was struck by how many of them weren’t quite sure themselves of their particular state’s rules regarding STV.  So, here are three ways for a potential mix-up:
The officials may not provide the correct information to the voter, the voter might not execute the vote properly (either because of not understanding what was said or because of confusion over the use of the voting apparatus) or the programmer might have goofed it up.   Also, the way STV works in one state may be completely different than the way it works in the state right next door. Because of these reasons, Ellen sees STV as “one more layer of opportunity for an electronic miscount”.  Even if you familiarize yourself with all the ins and outs of your state’s requirements, there is still too much risk of something going wrong if you vote STV.

Ten second take-away
Ellen went to a tremendous amount of trouble to gather the information for the fifteen states that use STV.  It is provided at the VotersUnite! website.  Nevertheless, her advice would be:  avoid using STV.  Vote for each and every race individually, even if it takes a little longer.  This is a clear case of more convenient not being better.  Avoid Straight Ticket Voting!

Who’s affected
Here are the fifteen states that offer STV (sometimes known as SPV, straight party voting).  Alabama, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Michigan, New Mexico, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Texas, Utah, West Virginia and Wisconsin.  If you add up the population in those states, you’re at around 90 million.  So, we’re talking about tens of millions of voters including those from four of the ten most populous states.  It is quite likely that all of us have contacts in at least one of the fifteen states.  Since early voting has already started, it’s critical to get this information out to as many people as possible as quickly as possible. Millions of votes could be at stake.

Of course, if you were to say that this should be the job of the Election Assistance Commission, you would be 100% correct.  The EAC was created by the Help America Vote Act in 2002, to be a national clearinghouse for election information.  They have fallen far short of the mark up until now; it is unlikely that they will suddenly drop everything to sound the alarm about this.    On the other hand, this is a perfect opportunity for us to step in.  

In making this information widely known and urging people to avoid STV, we can make a difference!

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Many thanks to Ellen Theisen for her help!



Submitters Website: http://www.opednews.com/author/author79.html

Submitters Bio:

Joan Brunwasser is a co-founder of Citizens for Election Reform (CER) which since 2005 existed for the sole purpose of raising the public awareness of the critical need for election reform. Our goal: to restore fair, accurate, transparent, secure elections where votes are cast in private and counted in public. Because the problems with electronic (computerized) voting systems include a lack of transparency and the ability to accurately check and authenticate the vote cast, these systems can alter election results and therefore are simply antithetical to democratic principles and functioning. Since the pivotal 2004 Presidential election, Joan has come to see the connection between a broken election system, a dysfunctional, corporate media and a total lack of campaign finance reform. This has led her to enlarge the parameters of her writing to include interviews with whistle-blowers and articulate others who give a view quite different from that presented by the mainstream media. She also turns the spotlight on activists and ordinary folks who are striving to make a difference, to clean up and improve their corner of the world. By focusing on these intrepid individuals, she gives hope and inspiration to those who might otherwise be turned off and alienated. She also interviews people in the arts in all their variations - authors, journalists, filmmakers, actors, playwrights, and artists. Why? The bottom line: without art and inspiration, we lose one of the best parts of ourselves. And we're all in this together. If Joan can keep even one of her fellow citizens going another day, she considers her job well done. Joan has been Election Integrity Editor for OpEdNews since December, 2005. Her articles also appear at Huffington Post, RepublicMedia.TV and Scoop.co.nz. On the occasion of Joan's achieving one million page views, OEN Managing Editor, Meryl Ann Butler interviewed her, turning interviewer briefly into interviewee. Read the interview here.

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