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Cong. Wexler's New Book: Fire-breathing Liberal

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Congressman Wexler has a book being published by St. Martin's Press on Tuesday, June 24th. It is titled Fire-breathing Liberal and it details many of the fights he has taken on. There is an entire chapter on his fight for a paper trail called The Paper Chase: Making your vote count (it follows a chapter on Election 2000 recount).

 

Chapter 15

 

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The Paper Chase: Making Your Vote Count

 

It's not the voting that's democracy, it's the counting.

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- Tom Stoppard

 

Can one Congressman make a difference on a national issue? I'd assumed so, but now I intended to find out. The reality is that sometimes issues find legislators. This one had found me. Nothing is more fundamental to a functioning democracy than voting rights and the American system had broken down. Since my constituents had been the ones immediately affected I felt compelled to learn all that I could about voting machines, ballot design and the science and methodology of elections. This isn't part of the Congressional job description, but it had become clear to me that, despite the general perception, that job description includes many things nobody knows about. As a Member of Congress I had the bully pulpit -- access to publicity -- and both legal and legislative paths to follow.

 

Members of my staff and I began by meeting in my office with several experts regarding the new electronic ATM-style voting machines that were being developed. And every one of them, literally every one of them, told us that the new electronic voting machines are not secure. Even the most sophisticated voting machines had glaring shortcomings. I've yet to meet a computer expert who will attest that these machines can't be tampered with, manipulated or won't malfunction. Computers are fallible, they can be hacked, they break, they crash and design flaws happen. Knowing that, it is self-evident that American democracy cannot be solely dependent upon electronic machines to provide an accurate count of the vote. These electronic machines are incapable of conducting any type of meaningful recount. Imagine the world's most powerful democracy was just one computer glitch, one design flaw or one hack away from total electoral chaos. This was the nightmare scenario I envisioned that had to be prevented from happening. That's why I began a crusade for voter verified paper ballots in Florida and then throughout the nation. Ballots that can be recounted in close elections, ballots that can be audited, ballots that can be checked. This wasn't a partisan issue, it wasn't rocket science. Most voters, people from all political perspectives, understood that it was just common sense.

 

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I was astonished to discover that many elected officials didn't see it the same way I did Some of even argued that electronic voting machines are infallible – the last time we heard that, of course, was when the Titanic set sail.

 

This isn't a new problem. Originally America voted by paper ballot. When there are two means of verifying a vote, a machine tabulation and supporting paper trail, there is a greater likelihood of an accurate vote tally. Also, the back-up system gives voters more confidence in the integrity of the system and that their votes will be counted accurately. Since we first began dropping a paper ballot into a box people have searched for a simple and secure technological way of making sure every vote is counted. More than a century ago, in 1892, when lever-operated voting machines began replacing paper ballots, people first began demanding a paper receipt. It was incredulous to me that more than 100 years later we were fighting the same battle.

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