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Paper ballots

Posted by Richard on September 25, 2006

Bizzyblog noted that concern about electronic voting machines cuts across party lines, citing Maryland as the latest example:

The state’s governor and paper-ballot advocate is Republican Bob Ehrlich; the people who want to stick with the troubled e-voting systems, which had significant problems (link is to one blogger’s detailed in-person observations; HT Techdirt) in Maryland’s most recent primary, are Democrats.

Those who believe e-voting can still be used and trusted have to pretend that the Princeton IT study, which demonstrated that an easily installed virus can alter vote totals without being detected, and e-voting vendor Diebold’s incredibly weak response to it don’t exist. Oh, and besides that, you can get into the voting machine with a hotel mini-bar key.

This ought to disabuse anyone that the credibility and integrity, or lack thereof, of e-voting is a partisan issue, but it probably won’t.

Here in Colorado, a judge just ruled that the e-voting machines have serious security flaws, but we’re stuck with them anyway:

A Denver district judge ruled Friday that the secretary of state did an "abysmal" job of security testing on new computerized voting machines, but it’s too late to bar them from the Nov. 7 election.

Unable to be certain the machines’ software is safe from tampering that could distort the vote, Judge Lawrence Manzanares ordered the state to immediately devise detailed rules for counties to ensure that no one can get to the machines to reprogram them.

Plaintiffs showed malicious software could be installed with a screwdriver and a flash drive in as little as one minute on some machines, Manzanares noted.

He said the widely used voting machines, where voters cast ballots on a computer screen, "are certainly not perfect or immune from tampering." But he ruled that barring them roughly six weeks before the election, and four weeks before early voting, "could create more problems than it would solve."

Legitimate concerns about e-voting have been overshadowed by the moonbat left conspiracy theories — researching the political donations and affiliations of Diebold executives, repeating absurd, baseless claims about Ohio being stolen, and so forth. It’s good to see that reasonably sane people of varied political persuasions are making reasonable arguments against e-voting.

In Colorado, both the Republican and Democratic candidates for Secretary of State suggested using absentee ballots — paper — for in-person as well as absentee voting (the Libertarians aren’t running anyone for that office, and I can’t be bothered looking up the other parties). I thought that was a great idea, and I don’t understand the judge’s contention that it’s "too late" — I’m sure the printers getting ready to print absentee ballots would be happy to increase the print runs, and there’s plenty of time to do so.

Here’s how to make elections much more fraud-resistant:

  • Stop this trend toward giant voting-centers. Decentralize voting back to many small neighborhood precincts, each with only a few hundred registered voters. If necessary to staff them with sufficient poll workers and observers, pay an attractive fee. And/or arm-twist the political parties.
  • Require each voter to present a valid picture ID or be vouched for by two neighbors (living within a block) as to the voter’s name and address. The neighbors must be there in person and must sign a statement (with penalties for lying) before witnesses. And the neighbors must have previously established their identities in one of the same two ways.
  • Record all votes on paper ballots.
  • Immediately upon poll closing, have the poll workers count the votes at the precinct, with representatives of all parties free to observe. If there are only a couple or three hundred, they should be done about as quickly — maybe more quickly — than with today’s system.

Elections are an excellent example of a process that could benefit from application of the KISS principle — "Keep it simple, stupid!" Low-tech is the way to go.

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