Saturday, September 06, 2008

What's Wrong With Paper Ballots Anyway?

Fifty-eight days remain until the presidential election. If you're like me, then your mind is made up already, but you have a lingering anxiety about the many problems of our voting system.

A few weeks ago Premier Election Solutions (formerly Diebold Election Systems, Inc.) admitted to major security flaws in their electronic voting machines (if video doesn't show, click here):

Let me just make this perfectly clear: Premier Election Solutions has admitted that their software used in at least 34 states does not count votes correctly. I will never trust electronic voting. I've written about the threat of electronic voting before, but it can't be repeated often enough. Casting your vote on a computer is like walking up to a window where a little man opens a curtain and asks "who do you want to vote for?" You answer him, he closes the curtain, and you never know what that little man does with your reply. It's a black box.

And these boxes can be easily hacked as proven in the HBO documentary Hacking Democracy. And these boxes are also proprietary meaning Premier made the inner workings secret so that citizens have no way to scrutinize the hardware or software. There is also no way to authenticate election results which can of course be done if paper ballots were used.

So what was wrong with paper ballots anyway? After all, they've been used since 139 B.C.

Well, the same company, Premier, makes optical-scan machines which tabulate paper ballots, and these machines can also be hacked!

But the biggest complaint with paper ballots has been poor design. For example, the infamous butterfly ballot used in Florida for the 2000 presidential election was blamed for many mis-marked ballots.

Punch card systems have also lost favor due to the high rate of inaccuracy related to the incomplete removal of the perforated chad and the inaccessibility to voters with disabilities.

Sometimes it seems that the MSM is trying to perpetuate the idea of paper ballot "voter fraud" like in the case of Dixville Notch, NH where 17 ballots were cast even though there were only 16 registered voters. Well, those reports were irresponsible and inaccurate as exposed on the Brad Blog.

The simple fact remains that any system that leaves a paper trail can at least be recounted by hand in a location where the process can be viewed by the public. You can't get that transparency with any electronic voting machine!

Therefore I have to conclude that paper ballots aren't perfect, but they are by far the best system available.

Finally, if you're wondering which candidates votes will go missing this year, remember in 2003 Walden O'Dell -- then the chief executive of Diebold Inc. -- told Republicans in a fund-raising letter that he was "committed to helping Ohio deliver its electoral votes to the president next year." I don't for one second believe that their machine "glitches" are accidental.

Some other links of interest:

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