November 21, 2006
How did we get to this day? We’ve all watched the machine malfunctions; uncounted votes; contested elections of the last 10 years or so. Computer experts tell us that one thing (and maybe there are others) computers are NOT good for is elections. And yet we are now about to pay tens of millions of dollars to install computer machines that have barely been manufactured and are totally untested.
New York State has been criticized by many for being the last to install computer voting machines, but I think it’s a sign of GREAT good sense.
If we must use computers to count the vote then lets’ just limit it to that. DRE’s computerize recording of the votes, the casting of ballots, storing the vote, retrieving and counting it. Optiscans only computerize the counting, and we have a directly marked paper ballot as evidence of the intent of the voter.
If we want to benefit from others’ experience and not start from scratch, here
are some election problems with DRE’s others have had:
1. Maryland was an early computer voting state and has held investigations into its machines. More than two months before this past election Governor Ehrlich publicly announced that he lacked confidence in the state's new $106 million electronic voting system and urged the return to paper ballots.
2. On this November 7th, at least seven states—Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania, North Carolina and South Carolina—extended polling hours as a result of computer system glitches.
3. In Florida over 18,000 touch-screen votes in one county weren’t recorded. This is an error of huge magnitude and even if the FLA DRE’s had a VVPT, how do we know how many voters even checked to see if that vote had been recorded?
4. In Quebec Province, where computer voting machines were used last year in 140 municipalities, the Chief Electoral Officer reported machine blackouts and transmission errors, resulting in unreliable results. He also reported that the electronic voting machines weren't any faster or more economical than manual counting. There is now an indefinite moratorium on the use of these machines in Quebec Province.
Using more wisdom, the New York State Legislature (along with 21 other states -- AK, AZ, AR, CA, CO, CT, HI, ID, IL, ME, MO, MT, NV, NJ, NC, OH, OR, UT, WA, WV, WI) requires a Voter Verified Paper Trail. This was to provide a paper audit record so that an election can be “recounted”.
But touch screen machines with a paper trail will create doubt because we don’t know if each voter has verified it, and we don’t know if voters are all capable of comparing the printout on the paper trail to their votes on the touch screen.
A DRE paper trail is a very poor second best.
Only real recounts (i.e. cross-checking the paper records that Optiscan voting provides against official tabulations), not just rereading machine totals, will resolve close elections. Recounts that actually use the direct voters’ intent (the directly-marked paper ballot) can resolve contested elections to everyone’s satisfaction. When voters mark their choices directly on a paper ballot, we can have confidence that the paper shows the voters’ real intent.
I urge you, our election commissioners, NOT to purchase the far more expensive, more complicated, less efficient and almost impossible to audit electronic voting machines.
I believe it’s the job of all election officials to do everything in their power to provide voting that’s simple and, most important, that can be TRUSTED.
Since we are required to have computers involved in our voting in New York State, I urge you to
· Select Optiscan Scanner machines and NOT TOUCH SCREEN VOTING MACHINES;
· NOT TO spend millions more dollars than necessary; and,
· NOT TO start us down the path of investigations, lawsuits and mistrust of the vote that the DREs engender.
It seems from all the testimony here today and from all the Hearings so far held that when ordinary people learn the facts about voting machines they invariably choose Optiscans. I can’t help feeling that, if DRE’s are chosen for NYC it will be the lobbyists, and not the people, who are being heard.