Teresa Hommel



Statement before the Government Operations Committee

Supporting Resolutions 131 and 228

April 24, 2006


Good morning. My name is Teresa Hommel. Thank you for conducting this hearing.


Why PB/OS?


Our current state law gives us two choices for new voting machines:


·        DREs, where the computer conceals both the recording and counting of votes


·        PB/OS, where the little scanner, which is a computer, conceals the counting of votes.


Computers are the wrong technology for elections in a democracy. The two reasons are:


·        they conceal what needs to be observed for the legitimacy of our elections and government,[1]


·        computer security is impossible to control. Entire elections can be falsified in seconds by one insider or outside hacker located anywhere in the world.  For example, one person at the Board of Elections could give the phone number of the system to a friend, who later sits with their laptop, watches the votes coming in, and changes them as the day goes along so that one particular candidate wins with the exact pre-selected margin of victory that he or she paid for. You will never have a close election due to computer fraud – unless somebody wants one. 


Given DRES versus PB/OS,  PB/OS is better because it gives us a permanent record of the votes created directly the voters. The votes on paper ballots can be hand-counted if there is a legal need or political will to do so. If one scanner fails, the paper ballots can be counted by a different scanner.


Fears of Tampering with Paper Ballots


Some people oppose PB/OS because of the tampering that can be done with paper ballots. It sounds like instead of lawyers, we need kindergarten teachers to run our elections and recounts.


·        Is there a piece of lead under someone’s fingernails? “Everyone please hold up your hands so the teacher can inspect your hands and nails.”


·        Does someone have their hand in the ballot box? “Please take it out and show me what you did.”


·        Did someone put ballots in their briefcase? “Let’s open all the briefcases now so the teacher can inspect what you have in there.”


If we are afraid that tampering will take place with paper ballots at the warehouse or the Board of Elections office,.then install cameras on the ceiling to send images to all political party headquarters and the local police station. Do we need heat and motion sensors to detect people coming in at night to tamper? Do we need observers from each party to sit together and watch each other and the ballots until the election is certified?


If there’s a will, there’s a way.


Political will is the real issue here, because all the “what if’s” have easy solutions.


·        The “Whereas” clauses of Resolution 131 list the real reasons why PB/OS is the right choice.


·        The list of “various measures” in Resolution 228 are common sense, and no computer system in business or industry would be introduced without the equivalent.


Computers are not more convenient than paper ballots, and they are certainly less secure, but they do conceal the tampering.


If a Board of Elections wants to buy computers but doesn’t want to run a public mock election to show that they work, what kind of shortcuts will they take later? What kind of elections will we have?


I thank Council Member Vallone for his sponsorship of Resolution 131.


I thank Council Members Dickens and Seabrook for their sponsorship of Resolution 228.


I urge each member of this committee to sponsor both of these resolutions, and for this committee to vote favorable on these resolutions and recommend their passage to the entire City Council.


Thank you.



1. People ask, “What about the lever machines, don’t they conceal the recording and counting of votes?” The answer is yes, but in my opinion, lever voting machines are the hardest technology to tamper with. Once a lever machine is programmed by our bipartisan elections staff, the programming does not change unless a person opens up the machine and goes to work with a box of tools. It takes one person up to five hours to reprogram one machine.