November 4, 2008
My son is 18. This was his first opportunity to vote and he was thrilled to have reached this milestone. He is a freshman at Oberlin College and living with a mother like me, is quite aware of the nightmare that was Ohio in 2004 not to mention the unknowable risks of electronic voting. He recognized that outside of New York (and a few pockets, largely in New Hampshire) he would have to pick his poison, but he wanted to vote in Ohio where he thought his vote might possibly be more significant.
He didn't even know if he would be voting on an optical scanner or a DRE. But he wanted to vote early because he didn't have a car and getting to the polls would be difficult. After checking in with me, he decided early voting wouldn't be any more insecure than voting on an optical scanner or DRE on Election Day (he understands that chain of custody is immediately lost when one casts a ballot other than at the poll site on Election Day, but he also understands that chain of custody is immediately lost the moment one feeds one's paper ballot into a scanner or presses a touchscreen). He went to vote last week in Loraine County, Ohio. He knew his limited rights, thanks to the efforts of Ohio's new Secretary of State struggling to do the best with the fact that her State (like 48 other states) doesn't have a secure, transparent electoral system. He was prepared to ask for his paper ballot even as he knew no one would ever know if it was counted. He waited on line 2 hours and when he got to the top of the line was told he had to have asked for the paper ballot when he walked in and if he wanted a paper ballot he'd have to go back to the end of the line and wait all over again. He couldn't wait- he'd gotten a ride and couldn't keep others waiting. He called later and told my husband, "Don't tell mom but I had to vote on a DRE. I feel horrible".
I called and told him it wasn't his fault. He said he was ready to explode when the woman who refused to give him a paper ballot assured him the DRE was safe to vote on. "Really! How did she know? What was she even doing there? She refused to give me the paper ballot I was legally entitled to and she had no idea if the DRE was safe to vote on. What was her function in the electoral process", my astute son wondered.
There were no lines. Just smiling faces of the older woman who come every year proudly performing their civic duty. Democrats and Republicans, they smiled and greeted us. As I was signing in one of the women recognized my child, "Didn't I just see you a few hours ago?" Before he could explain he wasn't trying to commit voter fraud, the woman smiled warmly and continued, "That's OK, you get to vote twice".
I have never been more elated to vote than I was yesterday. Since the theft of the 2004 elections I have devoted my waking and sleeping hours to fighting the evil that has been let loose at the hands of computerized vote counting systems. Evil may seem a strong word in our polite society, but I use it as a legal term. New York's case law is replete with safeguards designed to protect the integrity of our elections by guarding against the "evil" that is election fraud. In New York, we presume fraud follows elections like winter follows autumn. So our electoral system in New York is designed to prevent even the opportunity for fraud by providing a highly observable and maximally safeguarded system.
The famous observation of Justice Louis Brandeis regarding the benefits of publicity, to wit, "Sunlight is said to be the best of disinfectants; electric light the most efficient policeman", was not lost on successive generations of NYS's Legislature who have upheld these requirements of our electoral system; that is until 2005. In 2005 the Legislature passed the Election Reform and Modernization Act (ERMA), which ignored the fundamental aspect of our election laws, gave over the observable duties of election officials to invisibly programmed software, and violated the public's constitutional right to observe its public elections. Fortunately those laws haven't yet gone into effect, so this year New Yorkers got to vote on the only secure, constitutional voting system left in America (but for those pockets of hand counters).
Founder, Re-Media Election Transparency Coalition, http://re-mediaetc.blogspot.com/
Legal Coordinator for Election Defense Alliance, http://www.ElectionDefenseAlliance.org/save_ny_levers