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Election Forum

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The resistance I have found to hand counted paper ballots has been from: >>> >>> 1) my own colleagues in the voters' rights movement who considered it "asking for too much too soon"; >>> 2) computer experts who find it a challenge to find a way to use electronics in elections, and >>> 3) county officials who consider the task of finding more pollworkers and ballot counters daunting, >>> 4) corrupt officials who know it would be more difficult to hack the vote. >>> >>> I believe it is a mistake to settle for optical scans that preserve the paper ballot. I honestly don't believe that we can overcome most of the ways that this system can be corrupted. To me, it's merely a bandaid on an infected wound. We need to clean out the wound (ditch the current electronic systems), stitch it up (put in place standards for hand counted paper ballots) and apply antibiotics (have safeguards in place even for the hand counted paper ballot system). >>> With electronic scans: >>> >>> 1. Some of the machines will fail on election day, causing voters to leave without voting; with hand-counted paper ballots, you just have to have a sufficient number of ballots (hey, if you run out, run to Staples and make some extra copies!). >>> 2. The machines are relatively expensive to purchase; in addition, they must be kept in a secure location, handled carefully, and and protected from heat, cold, humidity, dirt, etc.; We know that this isn't happening - these machines are handled roughly, banged and dropped; we know that they are stored in places accessible to would-be bad guys; we know that some pollworkers even take these machines home with them; >>> With hand-counted paper ballots, no special storage is needed; the expense is really the cost of printing the ballots; and security is limited to the paper ballots themselves; >>> >>> 3. Maintenance of the machines, upgrades and "patches" are a continuing expense; no such expense occurs with hand-counted paper ballots; >>> >>> 4. We know that "audits" of electronically counted ballots don't work; First, what triggers the audit? In most states, an audit requirement is triggered when the difference in the vote totals is less than one half of one percent. A good hacker will keep the discrepancy within the margin so that no state law is triggered. Even when you have such a law, most states do not automatically assume that the hand count will replace the machine count. Seems stupid, but there it is. >>> >>> In addition, we have lazy or corrupt precinct workers who will corrupt the audit. As we saw in "Hacking Democracy" the poll workers merely held back sufficient ballots to make the hand count match the electronic totals. And we all know what Triad did in Ohio "recounts" in 2004. The heroes who fought that battle assert forcefully that audits are often a sham. >>> >>> So, in my view, audits are the "red herring" that the bad guys love because it appears to "fix" the problem, when it really doesn't at all. If I were a bad guy wanting to control election outcomes, I would "reluctantly" settle for optical scans with some alleged audit protections. (As Brer Rabbit said, oh, please don't throw me into that briar patch!) >>> >>> If we settle for that, then we will merely be back in action complaining in a few years that the system doesn't work, and we'll be considered constant complainers who are neve satified. I'd rather demand and fight for the best system possible now. >>> >>> 5. When employing a new computer software system, industry standard is to have a parallel system for three years checking 100% of the new software. So far, not one jurisdiction that I know of has done that. It would require a 100% count of all of the paper ballots to check against the machines. Well, if that's what we're going to do, let's bypass the machines and just do the handcount. >>> >>> 6. Going to hand counted paper ballots requires minimal training for poll workers. I've seen pollworkes utterly baffled by machine glitches and problems. Most recently, machine malfunctions resulted in many voters simply walking away. That doesn't happen for hand-counted paper ballots. >>> >>> 7. Going to hand-counted paper ballots removes private corporations from the ballot counting function. These corporations have too many connections to political candidates, too much interest in the outcome, are motivated by greed and profit incentives, and have fewer ethical and industry standards in place than vendors of Las Vegas slot machines. (I loved the 2004 NYT editorial on that.) >>> >>> 8. A system of hand counted paper ballots actually does very positive things for the community and re-instills trust in our election outcomes. While no system is absolutely fraud-proof, I believe that this is the one that comes closest to achieving the goal of sound elections. >>> >>> Jana Nestlerode > Marc Baber wrote: >> Hi Jana, >> >> At (Eugene's grass roots Election Reform group), we've discussed election processes a lot. In May, I wrote "A Practical Election System with Integrity" available online at (click on PDF version) and TIV's membership endorsed the plan in June and supported me in presenting it at We Count 2006 in September. >> >> I think that redundant, dumb, optical scanners meet all our requirements for verifiable elections without compromise and let us achieve our goals with a much lighter legislative payload because hand-counting really is an administrative headache, especially in areas with as many as 50 different races/issues on the ballot, and especially where IRV (Instant Runoff Voting) is practiced. My proposed system also supports the ability of people to do hand-counting from their own scanned images of the paper ballots, if they wish. >> >> Some of the arguments regarding electronic scans below appear to be confused with DREs in that optical scanning of paper ballots cannot cause voters to be turned away since the failure of an optical scanner in no way limits someone's ability to cast a paper ballot. Just to clarify, I would say that "scanner" generally refers to devices that produce electronic images or data from paper (ballots). >> >> The scanners I propose are relatively inexpensive and one can even use standard PC scanners connected to standard PCs for independent validation of ballots (redundancy is the key here). Since the scanners don't need to be in the polling place itself if a careful multipartisan-observed chain of custody is enforced, there needn't be a problem exposing the scanners to the abuses that you've mentioned below. Alternatively, scanners could be used at the precinct level if the ability to enforce chain of custody is in doubt. Precinct level scanners would be low-cost standard PC scanners, generally designed for a certain amount of abuse and relatively cheap if they need to be replaced. >> >> With the "dumb" scanners I propose, very little maintenance expense would be involved, largely because these scanners would require zero re-programming between elections. >> >> In the system I propose, audits are fully supported, without a triggering threshhold, by the redundant nature of the optical scanning systems. The idea, in a nutshell, is that anyone with a PC scanner can go down to county elections facilities and scan any or all precincts that they have doubts about. People are free to compare the data they obtain and are even encouraged to do so using internet/web communications to achieve what I call "extreme" transparency. At a minimum, at least one Republican party scan would be performed and one Democratic scan in addition to the Elections Division scan. Other political parties, news organizations, campaigns and even interested individuals could also scan the ballots. >> >> I won't go into exhaustive detail here, but I encourage people to take a look at my paper online (link above) and consider the advantages with an open mind. I expect that hand-counting proposals will be attacked by election officials (who tend to be perceived as experts by most citizens and the media) as infeasible, naive, even Luddite. I believe my proposal combines the best of both worlds-- paper ballots and transparent, verifiable, always-audited optical counting. Thus, it's quite possible that such a proposal would make us allies with (non-corrupt) election officials and result in better chances of success. Thank you all for reading and for your continuing work >> >> Marc Baber from > Marc, > > Wow. Thanks for sharing this with me/us. It's obvious you've put a lot of thought and work into this, and I'm so glad that you have. It always heartens me when I see so many working so hard to fix our broken election system. > > I printed out your document "A Practical Election System with Integrity". I've only read it once, and I'll have to read it a few times to really absorb it all and think about it. After the first reading, I have two questions: > > 1. How can any of us ever be sure that the optical scan is "dumb"? Diebold assured everyone that there was no executable code on the memory card, but lo and behold, there was. Even when a machine is "certified" by federal and state officials, there's absolutely no guarantee that the machine(s) delivered to the individual precincts are unaltered versions of the ones certified. > > What's to prevent a bad guy from inserting a programmable memory card into precinct machines? And if that is done, how is it detected other than watchdog groups scanning the ballots independently? > > I like the checks and balances approach of having others (independents, watchdogs etc.) scan the ballots on their own certified/pre-approved scanners. But I suspect that won't happen very often. > > 2. I think there will be some concern that with a ballot id# retained by the election workers that the vote will not be secret. I have a student who is a county employee in Delaware County, Pennsylvania. Delaware County is run by a strong republican machine. Republican presidents and republican presidential candidates always spend an inordinate amount of time in Delaware County. Well, longterm incumbent Curt Weldon was just defeated by newcomer Joe Sestak and TPTB (the powers that be) in Delaware County are furious. My understanding is that they are going through the poll books to find any county employees who failed to vote on election day, presumably with some consequence for those who failed to vote. As far as I know, at this time, there's no way for them to find out HOW the county employee voted. But if they had that ability, I'm quite sure they would use it, and I'm quite sure that the consequences for any employee breaking rank would be significant. > > So I would want any system to preserve a voter's privacy, and make it virtually impossible for election officials to discern the choices on the voter's ballot. > > You haven't convinced me that optical scans, even "dumb" ones are safe, but I'm definitely open to being persuaded. Thanks for all your hard work. > > > > Jana Nestlerode, chair of the Department of Criminal Justice at West Chester University in West Chester, Pa. -- --
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Joan Brunwasser is a co-founder of Citizens for Election Reform (CER) which since 2005 existed for the sole purpose of raising the public awareness of the critical need for election reform. Our goal: to restore fair, accurate, transparent, secure elections where votes are cast in private and counted in public. Because the problems with electronic (computerized) voting systems include a lack of (more...)

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