The New York Times

December 25, 2005


Trust and the Voting Machine (5 Letters)


To the Editor:


Your Dec. 18 editorial about the Diebold voting machine scandal ("The Business of Voting") concluded that "paper trails are important, but they are no substitute for voting machine manufacturers of unquestioned integrity."


Even if there were such an unlikely animal, every person in that corporation with access to the machines would also have to be of "unquestioned integrity."


With computerized voting, a single corrupt individual with access can insert code into voting software that can change votes over entire states.


As you say, "the counting of votes is a public trust." It must remain in public hands. Our votes must be counted by a nonpartisan public agency dedicated to accuracy, not by a private corporation dedicated to its bottom line.


The best paper trail is a paper ballot that the voter has marked by hand. Then if there are machine breakdowns or suspicious results, every voter's ballot ultimately can be counted.


Allegra Dengler

Dobbs Ferry, N.Y., Dec. 21, 2005


To the Editor:


You spoke of the problems with Diebold's electronic voting machines, but did not mention that the New York State Board of Elections may decide to use voting machines that are just as flawed.


Under the Help America Vote Act, counties must stop using mechanical lever voting machines by Sept. 1, 2006. Noncompliance with HAVA puts New York at risk of losing $220 million. But we cannot rush to replace lever machines with tamperable computer voting machines, which require vendor technicians instead of bipartisan public employees.


Yet the Board of Elections is testing the Liberty e-voting machine, which doesn't even have a paper trail. It should be testing optical scanners, which are more transparent and secure and cost much less.


Marge Acosta

Centerport, N.Y., Dec. 18, 2005


To the Editor:


A number of counties in California bought Diebold touch-screen voting machines only to have them decertified after the March 2004 election. Why? Not only did the machines prevent thousands of voters from casting their ballots, but Diebold also violated state law by installing uncertified software on the machines before the election.


Diebold's first attempt to recertify its machines in California failed when 30 percent of the machines crashed, froze or couldn't print the voter-verified paper trail required by state law. If states fail to ensure that the voting machines from Diebold and other companies are accurate and secure, they'll have wasted millions of taxpayer dollars and pulled the rug out from under our democracy in the process.


Debra Bowen

Sacramento, Dec. 19, 2005

The writer is chairwoman of the California State Senate Elections Committee and a candidate for California secretary of state.


To the Editor:


We desperately need verifiable election systems, and the technology to provide true voter-verifiable elections exists and is available today.


Paper trails, appealing as they seem, do not provide adequate protection against malicious or careless election officials and equipment vendors.


New technologies can allow each voter and observer to verify independently that every vote has been counted properly.


Mere paper trails simply can't achieve this essential property, and legislation to mandate paper trails often precludes the use of superior new technologies. We can and should do better.


Josh Benaloh

Redmond, Wash., Dec. 18, 2005


To the Editor:


You say nearly half the states now require paper-trail capabilities. Why not every state? There can be little more sacred than the integrity of elections, especially national elections for president. Haven't we learned anything from 2000 and 2004?


Bruce J. Sage

Troy, Mich., Dec. 19, 2005


Copyright 2005The New York Times Company



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