If we could have this discussion as a prelude to a decision to begin the use of computers in voting systems I would advise--don't use computers. I would say we need to stop the media from promoting a horse race atmosphere regarding our elections. Prohibit any such hype by law. Take as much time as is needed to conduct paper ballot elections with precinct hand counts and announce no preliminary results. Consider calling citizens to serve as election ballot counters just as citizens are called to jury duty. Make election day into an election weekend or an election week if necessary with mandatory time off to vote. Make recounts and audits much more public and frequent.
But we haven't been given the opportunity to participate in a public discourse on this before voting machines were permitted (foolishly). Now we are in a completely different situation. We are trying to ameliorate a disaster and prevent further damage from occurring as we craft an appropriate replacement to the hideous system that has been thrust upon us.
There isn't just one way to go about this. Does anyone think that by demanding instant junking of machine voting and a return to paper ballots we can make it happen? Does anyone think that even if we prevail in a campaign to do away with these things tomorrow that we can expect instant relief? Does anyone think that the Holt bill cannot be modified to help us prevent another stolen election as we move forward with a parallel attack on electronic voting machine systems?
If the Holt bill cannot be modified to be of some value in preventing further bleeding while we remove the cancer, then OK, let's try to torpedo it. But let's evaluate what will likely happen next before we take that route.
My involvement in election audit design research was prompted by the complete inadequacy of prescribing a mandatory X% audit. That part of the Holt bill is in dire need of modification. I didn't jump into it because of any conviction that computers are the cat's meow. Quite the contrary. What other parts of that bill must be modified to give us a tool to staunch the bleeding over the next two years or whatever it takes to excise the cancer? Or is it entirely useless?
Let's stop the defensive discussions and try to figure out if and whether we can come to consensus about how to proceed from this point.
Jerry Lobdill, an election integrity researcher in
Tarrant County, TX.