“Either you believe in democracy or you
--Mayor Michael Bloomberg, 11/10/04
Statement of Teresa Hommel
10 St. Marks Place, New York NY 10003
before the Mayor's Task Force on Election Modernization
May 4, 2005
Thank you for the opportunity to speak here today.
My name is Teresa Hommel. I am Chairwoman of the Task Force on Election Integrity of Community Church of New York, and creator of the web site WheresThePaper.org.
I will discuss part of a speech Mayor Bloomberg made on election reform last November 10th. A hand-notated copy of the speech is in your packets.
I believe it is important for you, as members of the Mayor’s Task Force, to know that many New Yorkers disagree with the Mayor’s desire to switch to electronic voting.
Because of time limitations, I will comment on only four points.
1. The Mayor said that in November, 2004, long lines at the polls, and some lever machines that broke down, were evidence that we need electronic voting -- in order to make voting easier, quicker, and more secure.
In fact, the Mayor revealed that he was uninformed.
In fact, older voting technologies are easier, quicker, and more secure. I am referring specifically to both
-- lever machines,
-- paper ballots with precinct-based optical scanners
The Mayor should have gone to some locations around our country where electronic voting was used, and then he would have seen problems. Your packets contain a 97-page list of documented failures of electronic voting systems. It’s fascinating, and I hope you will read it.
2. The Mayor said that our lever voting machines are more than 40-years old, and “belong in the New York Historical Society.”
In fact, our lever machines were built to last at least 150 years with normal, routine maintenance.
At the age of 40, these machines are in still in their youth.
If they are breaking down, I’d like to ask why they haven’t been maintained? Someone has made a political decision here.
For example, if they weren’t broken, some officials would have to scramble for new arguments for replacing them. It’s not very persuasive to say “oh, they’re so old” if they are in the nearly-new condition they could be.
3. The Mayor implied that only people who are “afraid of technology” oppose electronic voting.
In fact, opposition originated, and has been most consistent and fervent, from computer scientists and computer professionals. I am one of them. We have tried to warn our country that electronic voting undermines the legitimacy of elections and our government. This is because electronic voting
--conceals vote-recording and vote-counting, and thereby invites suspicion of fraud
--facilitates undetectable tampering with votes and tallies, and thereby invites actual fraud
Moreover, electronic voting has been sold with the false promise that if an election professional can click a mouse and read their email, then they are competent to run a secure computer system. And if you believe that, and you can count to 10, you could be a rocket scientist for NASA.
Electronic voting fits under the heading “MISUSE of technology.” A full briefing on electronic voting takes longer than three minutes. I am offering to make myself available, at your convenience, to provide whatever information you need to enable you to suitably advise the Mayor to stop beating the drum for electronic voting.
4. The Mayor said that federal money from the Help America
Vote Act (“HAVA”) will pay for us to switch to electronic voting.
In fact, the federal money will fall far short. It won’t cover the purchase, nor the increased continuing costs. When the warrantees on the electronic equipment run out in 5 years, and the equipment has to be replaced, we'll be on our own.
New Yorkers for Verified Voting did a per-county analysis of acquisition costs. The statewide totals are:
Electronic voting $230,473,000
Optical Scan $114,423,640
SAVINGS from Optical Scan $116,049,360
Assembly bill A6503, the “Scan and Be Sure” bill, would implement this solution.
And before you dredge up the old stories about fraud with paper ballots, I would like to suggest a twentyfirst century solution, camcorders to watch the ballot boxes and all procedures with the paper ballots once cast.
I do agree with Mayor Bloomberg on one thing. He said,
“either you believe in democracy or you don’t.”
In September, 2004, a Findlaw study showed that 42% of Americans distrusted electronic voting.
Many voters believe that computer fraud occurred in the November, 2004, election.
But the technology itself prevents allegations of computer election fraud from being either proved or disproved. That is a terrible indictment of both our November election and our misuse of computer technology.
Either you believe in
democracy or you don’t. And if you do, please do not turn over our democracy to
1. Mayor Bloomberg's Speech on Election Reform, 11/10/04:
2. Evote System Failures by Vendor:
Frequently Asked Questions
3. Acquisition Costs, DRE vs. Optical Scan:
Paper Ballot Costs and Printing
Preliminary Optical Scan Survey Results
Comments on the NYC EVS Voting Machine Report
( A link to the NYC EVS Voting Machince Report is on this web page