Democracy 1-2-3



1.     Honest elections require observers, and counting all the votes in public view.


2.     “Voter-verification” is not voting.


3.     Spot-check recounts of a tiny percentage of paper trails is no substitute for counting all the votes



Voter-verification, and spot-check "audits" of electronic voting machines after elections, are dead-ends for honest elections.


These two ideas have been used to sell electronic voting to America -- by reframing both our election vocabulary and how we think about elections.


But the opportunity to verify one's ballot does not equate to the right to vote.


And the possibility that someone might "audit" (by spot-check counting a tiny percentage of  paper trails) does not equate to counting all the votes that were cast and getting it right on election night.


Our idea of voting has been converted into verification of a computer printout. Our idea of counting the votes has been converted into "spot checking" a few computers. These two changes have been accepted by most of our computer "experts" -- they have accepted the role of re-designers of how elections should be conducted. Most of these "experts," wittingly or not, are willing to conceal how our votes are cast, stored, and counted. They talk about reading software, rather than letting citizens observe vote storage, handling and counting procedures. "Verifiable voting" and "spot-check audits" cannot protect the honesty of our elections.


Honest elections require open public oversight—observers who have a meaningful view of all procedures (no whispering election officials, materials taken out of the room, observers made to stand so far away that they can’t see what is going on, etc). A well-managed hand count has self-auditing built in to the process--with multiple sets of eyes watching and the checking the tallies as counting proceeds on election night. Polling place reconciliation of counts on election night should reveal and correct any miscounts in publicly observable view. That's an honest election process.


Meaningful elections require other safeguards too. A few examples:


--require all eligible citizens to have access to registration and voting. For example, automatically register all citizens with a social security account and all citizens who pay taxes.


--ensure that third-party and independent candidates are not excluded from the ballot by political maneuvering;


--ensure that wealthy candidates (or candidates who receive large donations from people and corporations who want favorable treatment for their interests) do not have an unfair advantage. This can be done by regulating candidate finance and requiring the major media to provide equal coverage time;


--demand that candidate “debates” deal with meaningful issue questions rather than trivia.



Teresa Hommel

October 5, 2008