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Paper Ballot! Paper Trail!
Thursday, February 08, 2007
You know...It isn't as if it hadn't occurred to me to write Deb Markowitz about "Paper Ballot! Paper Trail!" before. I've hesitated to do that because I was afraid of what her answer might be.

Anyway, I finally did write to her yesterday. Her response was helpful and somewhat reassuring, but not entirely satisfying. She said it was already written in Vermont Law which she gave me:

Subchapter II. Ballots
§ 2478. Number of paper ballots to be printed and furnished
(a) For primary elections, the secretary of state shall furnish each town with a sufficient number of printed ballots based on the history of voter turnout in the town and in consultation with the town clerk.
(b) For general elections, the secretary of state shall furnish each town with a number of printed ballots approximately equal to 100 percent of the number of voters on the checklist for the primary election.
(c) If necessary due to unusual growth of the checklist, a town clerk may request additional ballots from the secretary of state at least 40 days before the election.
(d) For local ballots, the town clerk shall cause such number of ballots to be printed and furnished as the board of civil authority shall designate.
(e) No voting shall occur in any general election which does not use printed ballots. (Added 1977, No. 269 (Adj. Sess.), § 1; amended 1979, No. 200 (Adj. Sess.), § 48; 1981, No. 239 (Adj. Sess.), § 15; amended 1985, No. 109 (Adj. Sess.); 1991, No. 127 (Adj. Sess.); 2003, No. 94 (Adj. Sess.), § [emphasis added]

That's great! Thank You to the state reps, senators and governor who made that happen- whoever the hell you happen to be! I love you.

The thing is Deborah Markowitz, I believe, is a genuinely nice person. I think because of this she tried to take an extra step to reassure me, that unfortunately had the opposite effect. She said even if we put the paper trail issue aside, she didn't believe electronic voting would make sense in Vermont because the "efficiencies" that make it "attractive" in other states are not "relevant" here because they are too expensive.

Um...ah, yeah...(I'm doing Bill Lumbergh ) See, the thing is- it doesn't matter how efficient it is or how attractive that efficiency may make it for an elections officer- paperless voting is worthless. It cannot be audited and that is a fact. Look it up- or better yet, just use your common sense. When you use a touch screen and the program inside the machine records the vote falsely, the voter does not know. Nobody knows, except perhaps the hacker responsible for the flipped vote. How can you recount that? What are you counting? Ether? Finger Prints? That vote is in there baby, and that race is over. Look at Florida-13 for crying out loud! Touch screen machines produced an election with 18,000 undervotes under highly dubious conditions. That baby is still in court and Florida is returning to paper. Hallelluya!

And get it straight. A "paper trail" is meaningless unless it consists of a "paper ballot" The vote must be recorded on something physical, AKA, real, AKA paper- and it must be verified by the voter before it cast. It is true that a touch screen voting machine will produce a printed receipt, but as they say "garbage in, garbage out." If a bug or glitch flipped a vote, that receipt would just mimic the flipped vote. It doesn't tell us squat about the intent of the voter. Nobody can verify a vote if no physical record of it exists.

So although I'm glad the Secretary of State has at least some reason to oppose the scourge of e-voting, I'd prefer it if her primary reason for opposing electronic voting had more to do with the bedrock principle of sound, verifiable elections- and less to do with some false ideas about cost and efficiency. If an election is meaningless it isn't efficient and it's a total waste of money. Not only that- it cuts at the heart of democracy.

In any event, Deb was very gracious to respond to my email so quickly and provide me with the text of the Vermont Paper Ballot Law. I like her. She didn't get more votes than Jim Douglas or Bernie Sanders for nothing.

BradBlog on This

The Techie Part


posted by Haik Bedrosian @ 10:57 PM  
  • At February 09, 2007 1:34 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…


    I'm glad your covering this. This should be the #1 issue in this country. It's more than just touchscreen voting machines, watch American Blackout.

    The 2000 and 2004 elections were STOLEN. BTW, I voted for Nader both times and I believe Gore and Kerry would have been no better than Bush.

    And for those of you who tell me or anyone else to "Get Over It", remember these words from Martin Luther King Jr.: "Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter."

    Democracy matters most. It's time we come together to restore our democracy.

    Remember not one Senator spoke up for Democracy in 2000 and only one did in 2004. (Boxer/California)

    Leahy and Jeffords are criminals and are a disgrace to their oath.

    They did not utter a word in defense.

    Here is some good news:
    Florida to Abandon Touch-Screen Voting...

    In Florida, Governor Charlie Crist has announced the state will abandon touch-screen voting machines in favor of paper ballots. The $30 million
    replacement would mark the nation's biggest rejection of voting-machines to date.

    -Owen Mulligan
    Chair, Burlington Greens

  • At February 09, 2007 7:26 AM, Blogger Haik Bedrosian said…

    Thanks for writing in Owen. I agree with most of what you said, but I don't agree that Gore or Kerry would have been as bad as Bush. That's just crazy. I believe Gore would have overtaken Clinton as the greatest president in modern history. I also believe you can lay every death in Iraq squarely on the shoulders of Ralph Nader, who threw the election in favor of evil. I hope to God Gore runs again.

  • At February 09, 2007 7:48 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    To blame the election of Bush or the deaths in Iraq on Nader is crazy.

    The real blame lies on "The Felon List" Florida used to deny thousands of African Americans their right to vote when over 90% of those on the so-called "Felon List" were not even felons.

    This is a FACT.

    Bush took Florida by 500 something votes but yet thousands were denied their right to vote.

    Where does the REAL blame lie??...Nader's small percentage or the much larger percentage that was illegally purged from the voter rolls?

    And why does Nader get all the blame when any of the other third-party candidates on the ballot also had enough votes to supposedly "spoil" the election in Florida?

    We really need to get over this "spoiler" crap the two-party duopoly and the corporate media has fed us.

    Yeah, it's easy to blame Nader but it's not going to get us anywhere...

  • At February 09, 2007 2:44 PM, Blogger JayV said…

    Haik, It was great to meet you a the recent Burlington Greens caucus.
    Gore, run again? God forbid. He's just a sugar-coated Bush, a conservative Democrat (just like Jim Webb - why the Dems chose to him respond to the SOTU I'll never understand). The DLC crowd rules the Dems. Like others, you blame Nader for the Gore and Kerry losses. Gimme a break. Why do the Dems think they deserve our vote? They don't. They just think the only choice is them. They're just as corporatist and big biz as the Rethugs.

  • At February 09, 2007 10:52 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    You can't blame Ralph Nader, if you want a scapegoat for the problem of a broken system go no further then the Supreme Court they acted in flagrant disregard to the constitution by stopping the recount and the worst part was they didn't even pretend to have an honest argument for doing so and the media allowed it.
    Check out Vincent Bugliosi The Betrayal of America: How the Supreme Court Undermined the Constitution and Chose Our President
    or His February 2001 Salon article: None Dare Call It Treason

  • At February 10, 2007 1:42 PM, Blogger Haik Bedrosian said…

    Hi Ivan. Actually, I can blame Ralph Nader. That isn't to say I don't also blame the five dips on the supreme court who did this. And Katherine Harris. And the 50 million suckers who foolishly voted for Bush. Thanks for the comment and links.

    Hi Jay. I agree it was great to meet you, too. I don't agree that the DLC "rules" the Dems. Burlington Pol Howard Dean is their leader. Thanks for writing.

    Hi Owen. One question- if you think Gore or Kerry would have been as bad as Bush, why do you care who stole the election from whom?

    I don't want to lose the focus of the post. I think we all agree that paperless voting is impossible to audit, and thus totally unacceptable.

  • At February 10, 2007 1:57 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Electronic Voting is dangerous and should not be pursued. Keep the paper, it worked fine for hundreds of years. As we say in Vermont, if it ain't broke, don't fix it.

    During the last Mayorial election, when IRV was used, technical requirements mandated that compiling of ballots take place at City Hall on a centralized computer system. This violated the City Charter which requires Ward Clerks to announce results of voting at the polling stations, required the count to be re-started when the program failed, required a 90 minute delay in announcment of Ward races (ask Channel 17) and required the voting machine chips with the voting data to be transported by car to City Hall. If this doesn't seem like funny business, I don't know what does.

    I wonder who the computer hackers want to win office?

    Kevin Ryan

  • At February 10, 2007 7:36 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Kevin Ryan has a very good point about IRV in Burlington and although I'm a Green I have to say I agree with him 100% on this issue.

    Response to Haik: "Hi Owen. One question- if you think Gore or Kerry would have been as bad as Bush, why do you care who stole the election from whom?"

    Because I believe in Democracy and the one with the most votes should win regardless of how I feel about the winner. I don't like Bush, Kerry or Gore and would never vote for any of them but they each deserve a fair election and so do the voters.

    There is too many circumstances leading me to believe that both the 2000 and 2004 elections were stolen.

    Esssentially the integrity of the election is more important than who the winner is. Period.

    -Owen Mulligan

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