Voice of the Voters this evening was another two-hour special traveling around the mainland to delve into issues at every level of our government.
The first hour centered around Virginia, the complexity of whose issues may elude me as I attempt to report them. This is what I can glean.
Ivy Main backgrounded the issues that were subsequently discussed in detail. The elections are managed locally; when HAVA was implemented, most of the counties opted for DREs (70-80%); a few chose optical scanners. Some computer security experts banded together to form Virginia Verified Voting.
Because even with opscans Virginians can’t conduct recounts without a court order (a law that dates back to the mid eighties when, because of many close elections many recounts were implemented and then repeated and each given result varied), there was bipartisan approval to change this situation, but the legislature of the Dominion State is “slow.”
Last year, nonetheless, a bill introduced in both houses of the legislature accomplished a ban on the purchase of any DREs. This year two bills have been introduced in the Democratic-controlled legislature. One, SB 282, the Verified Voter Bill, was written by the program’s second guest, State Sen. Mark Herring, a recount and audit bill that allows Virginians to begin to count ballots and look at election results.
A companion bill, SB 35, focused on recounting the ballots and examination of undervotes or overvotes, was written by Sen. Deed. The two senators have “packaged” their bills and are working together. This package will come up for the vote next week; then consideration by the House will require a few more weeks. Virginians were urged to visit www.virginia.gov to contact their representatives urging support for both bills.
Alex Blakemore, a computer scientist, was the next guest interviewed. He immediately referred to the Catch 22 that ballots in his state can be examined only if there is cause to do so as proved to and approved by the state court system. The Herring bill passed last night, he reported [part of the show must have been taped beforehand].
How and when is a recount conducted? Well, the day after the election occurs a process called canvas. This involves double-checking the math count and counting provisional ballots. If the results are within 1 percent of each other, a recount can be required but must be paid for by the individuals involved. If the margin is .5 percent, the state will finance the recount.
Last year, in one race the number of undervotes exceeded the total that separated the winning candidate from the loser. The court forbade a recount, however. Another race had a 15-count margin and 19 additional undervotes. Again, the court said no to a recount.
There is anxiety, said Blakemore, that the recounts won’t be completed in time for the scheduled certification process.
Jim Strait, whose weekly program American Voices has formed the first hour of these two “double headers,” asked about the morale among the “grass roots soldiers.” Blakemore answered that it has dwindled since the first year, when people took off from work to testify about voting machine glitches. “People don’t have time to sustain their efforts,” the computer scientist said. But progress is occurring.
Last year a bill was passed banning DREs from the state, and this year two bills aiming to restore them were defeated. “The DREs will break down,” he said. “People know they should switch to opscans.”
Another computer scientist was next interviewed, Jeremy Epstein, who has worked in computer security from the last two decades.
He said that 80 percent of Virginians vote paperless, but 16 percent of the state resides in the Washington suburb of Fairfax County, which is now looking toward the use of opscans.
Votes from Super Tuesday will be audited in four states and in November the number will increase to seventeen.