After Colorado Secretary of State Mike Coffman decertified most of the states electronic voting machines in December 2007 it is no surprise to find that county clerks are now demanding the 2008 elections be held by all mail ballots. Of course the clerks, CO State Senator Ken Gordon, and Rutt Bridges with Bighorn Center, among others, were demanding mail ballot elections before the decertification and despite the clear defeat of Amendment 28 in 2002 that would have mandated mail ballot elections.
It doesn't seem to have penetrated, however, that mail ballot elections are virtually impossible without the use of the discredited and distrusted electronic voting machines
. Only with mail ballots the vote counting is done in a back room
essentially without citizen oversight. So we would have untrustworthy, error-prone machines being used to count our ballots in secret. Why multiply the dangers of electronic voting with a mail ballot election?
Worse, many county clerks contract out the election to voting machine vendors. Obviously there is considerable motivation for the vendor to cover up and disguise any "problems" that might occur in the backroom while counting of mail ballots proceeds using their proprietary and secret machines.
Many county clerks have stated they have used these electronic machines for several years without any problems. But one must ask the question as to whether they have the skills to recognize any but the grossest computer errors? The obvious answer is they do not! However, every qualified engineer and computer scientist who has had an opportunity to do an objective and unbiased study of these machines has condemned them in no uncertain terms, as did the investigative team for Colorado. This has been true for Maryland, Ohio, and California as well. Are we to give credence to the amateurs and ignore the experts?
Despite the political promises of Secretary Coffman there are no simple fixes, or patches for these voting machines, but county clerks cry in dismay that they have elections to run and cannot do without them. Nonsense! Any clerk who can count past ten without taking off their shoes can count ballots by hand, and often have to in recounts and audits. The tried and true method of using hand marked, hand counted paper ballots cast and counted in precincts works. But it does involve citizen election judges who often ask embarrassing questions and are not in awe of or beholden to the clerks as are their employees and vendors. That sure sounds like a way to have more transparent and trustworthy elections to me.
Only a grinch would want to eliminate secret ballots, facilitate election fraud, revive vote buying and selling, electioneering, backroom vote counts on untrustworthy machines with no public oversight, and eliminate such independents checks as exit polls by insisting on mail ballot elections in 2008.
Charles E. Corry, Ph.D., F.G.S.A.
About the author
Dr. Charles Corry is President of the Equal Justice Foundation.