Chairwoman, Task Force on Election Integrity, Community Church of NY
Press Conference, November 13, 2006
Computerized voting machines are not video games.
We need to see more than a touchscreen that lights up
when you touch a candidate’s name.
Electronic voting machines are being treated like video games. Let me explain:
Computers in professional use require constant auditing to make sure they are working correctly, but NO ONE in our Boards of Elections wants to do that. If the computers won’t be used according to professional standards, they should not be used. We should stick to low-tech paper ballots, which everyone understands. Optical scanners are simple and we’ve already been using them for years.
New York state law requires electronic voting machines to print a voter-verified paper audit trail, which puts New York ahead of many states. But just printing an audit trail does not tell us whether votes are being recorded correctly inside the computer. We need audits for that!
There has never been an audit of any computerized election. Never!
Our new state election law only requires a spot-check of 3% of electronic voting machines. 3% of our machines will be randomly selected, and the votes in the paper trails from those machines will be counted and compared to the electronic tallies. We have two problems here.
When we read reports of so-called glitches -- computer failures -- in elections in other jurisdictions, invariably the vendors or election directors say that the pollworkers were poorly trained. The press needs to ask more questions:
We praise our New York City Board of Elections because they are holding two public demonstrations of the machines under consideration this week.
But we call upon our Board to do more. We call for the measures recommended by City Council Resolution 228-A which passed with bipartisan sponsorship and unanimous vote on August 16 this year:
1. Full mock election tests, so that our real elections next year are not the first full test of the machines.
2. We want to know that our Board has some way for themselves, candidates and parties to confirm that
· the equipment we buy and get delivered to us, is the same as the equipment certified by our state, and
· the equipment does not contain illegal components, such as wireless communications.
Our elections staff, poll workers and voters are not all computer scientists. We should not invest city tax-payers’ money in machines that will baffle and confuse our people, and that no one wants to evaluate and test in a professional manner.
I urge the press to watch out for, and criticize, the video-game approach to electronic voting machines.
Money is another issue. Paper ballots and optical scanners are affordable, even if the federal government takes back some of the money they gave us for new equipment. Electronic voting machines will drain money away from other needs.
Recently Mayor Bloomberg said we should sell the firehouses we closed, rather than reopening them, because “the city needs the money.” We should not squander millions of dollars, maybe hundreds of millions, on electronic voting equipment that will last a short time, probably not work, and reduce public confidence and respect for our elections.
The Task Force on Election Integrity has just published a major cost study of new equipment under consideration. We urge the press to carefully look at these costs, and inform the public about the huge cost savings of paper ballot and optical scanner systems.