Reject paper-trail voting; support vote-by-mail

By Richard Yarnell of Beavercreek, Oregon. Richard is a former actor, union executive, and theatre manager from a farming background. He says he's "now retired and renewing my interest in energy effective technology."

Common Cause is pushing Congressman Holt's "paper trail" bill. Today, they solicited support for Holt's Bill, the primary selling point for which is its requirement that there be a voter varified paper record of each ballot. Here is my reworking of their suggested letter - the one I sent to my Congressman.

Remember, here in Oregon, after we've verified each voter's signature, we count the original ballot as many times as we need to, more cheaply, more accurately, and nearly as quickly as any County that uses the far more expensive electronic machines.

Dear Earl,

Common Cause is pushing a paper trail while accepting computer driven voting machines. There are many reasons this is a bad idea. You know most of them:

1) Sooner or later, computers will be hacked and voting software will be compromised or written to "adjust" the result;*

2) A good programmer bent on achieving a fraudulent result will stop short of triggering a recount and the vote manipulation will never be discovered;

3) How do you count cash register receipts efficiently, particularly with a complex ballot?;

4) A paper receipt is useless unless it is verified. As soon as it is verified by the voter, the vote is no longer a secret ballot;

5) A paper receipt does not necessarily reflect what the machine records;

6) Computer driven voting machines are expensive, have to be maintained, have to be programed for each election and will break down;

7) Vote by mail produces its own paper trail;

8) Two or three optical scanners (not networked) can count a whole county; each precinct must have 10-15 computer driven voting machines;

9) Instant results are only useful to the media and those who would direct election results.

10) Oregon has a proven model for a National Vote by Mail system and almost every state already has a system to handle mail-in absentee ballots capable of being tweaked to match Oregon's standards of accuracy, speed, and reliability.

As a voter in your district, I urge you to OPPOSE the Holt Bill and to replace it with a bill calling for all National elections to use "vote by mail" modeled on the Oregon's proven system.

The "paper trail" bill Holt would establish will foster confidence in an electronic machines that they cannot possibly deserve. Widespread voting fraud, inevitably will follow.

So far as I'm concerned, there is no reason to take the risk. On the contrary, there is every reason to make absolutely certain that the voting process is not compromised.

Best regards,

Richard

*It's been pointed out that "hack" has a specific meaning and that I've overestimated the likelihood it will occur. However, in the sense that the term refers to programming that manipulates a result, whether I overestimate the potential, the potential exists and can be done without leaving a trace. Discovering such programming or program manipulation requires specialized knowledge that most elections office workers don't have and that very few ordinary citizens have even if they were granted access to the code.

Comments

  • Scott in Damascus (unverified)
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    Another way to put is: what is broken and why do we need to fix it?

    Vote by mail works cheaply and perfectly. Next time I want to discuss moving to a voting machine, I'll call Ohio for some references.

  • JIMMY (unverified)
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    HI,

    1. I HAVE EXPERIENCE WORKING IN THE POST OFFICE OVER THE YEARS, AND HAVE TALKED TO POSTAL WORKERS, ESPECIALLY., ON NIGHT SHIFTS AND HAVE SEEN HOW EASY IT IS TO MISS DIRECT OR DISPOSE OF MAIL. THE VOTE MAIL IS EASY TO TELL FROM THE ENVELOPS . A GLANCE AT THE ZIP TELLS YOU A LOT ABOUT THE CHANCES OF HOW THE VOTE WILL GO ON ONE OR TWO CONTESTS ON THE BALLOT. YOU DON'T HAVE TO OPEN OR STEEL THE MAIL WHICH IS MUCH MORE DIFFICULT THAN MISS DIRECTING IT OR TRASHING IT. . I MY SELF, HAVE SEEN A GUYS TRASH MAIL WITHOUT KNOWING IT. ONCE YOUR IN THE GROVE YOU CAN DESTROY A LOT BEFORE YOU WAKE UP TO IT. LIKE WORKING LATE AT NIGHT AND HALF ASLEEP. LIKE COLLEGE GUYS AND MOON LIGHTERS WORKING AS TEMPS.

    THANKS FOR YOUR CLEARLY WRITTEN ARTICLE. I HAVE SOME IDEAS ABOUT HOW VOTING SHOULD BE DONE. IF YOU GET A CHANCE, I WOULD APPRECIATE IT IF YOU WOULD LET ME KNOW WHAT YOU THINK.

    I AM STILL TRYING TO FIGURE THINGS OUT AND HAVING TROUBLE.

    1. THERE SHOULD BE A CLEAR LARGE TYPE PAPER BALLOT MARKED BY THE VOTER. IT SHOULD BE AVAILABLE IN NEWS PAPERS AND THE INTERNET BEFORE HAND SO THE VOTERS CAN STUDY IT. IT COULD ALSO BE AVAILABLE IN LIBRARIES AND SCHOOLS AND OTHER PUBLIC BUILDINGS AND OFFICES. THE ORIGINAL CAST BALLOTS SHOULD BE KEPT ON FILE IN A SAFE PLACE FOR A NUMBER OF YEARS, MAYBE TEN

    2. ALL VOTES SHOULD BE HAND COUNTED IN PUBLIC, IN THE PERCENTS BEFORE SHIPMENT ANY WERE ELSE BY THREE SEPARATE GROUPS: A. PARTISANS, B. NONPARTISANS AND C. OFFICIAL COUNTERS

    3. THE VOTER SHOULD PUT THE BALLOT THROUGH AN OPTICAL SCANNER FOR COUNTING (A FORTH CHECK ON THE HAND COUNTS, ONLY A CHECK}. A COPY COULD BE MADE THAT THE VOTER CAN KEEP OR SHRED. THE COST OF AN ACCURATE VOTE IS ONE OF THE JUST PRICES OF DEMOCRACY.

    4. THE VOTERS SHOULD HAVE A CHOICE WHEN VOTING TO BE ABLE TO MARK THEIR BALLOT WITH A RANDOM NUMBER KNOWN ONLY TO THEM BEFORE IT IS SCAND AND STORED.

    IN A DISPUTE THE VOTERS WHO KEEP SUCH A BALLOT COULD BE ASKED, ON A VOLUNTEER BASES, TO LET THEIR BALLOT BE CHECKED AGAINST THE ORIGINAL RETAINED BALLOT. MAYBE THE VOLUNTEERS NAMES SHOULD BE MADE PUBLIC SO FORGERIES COULD BE DETECTED. IT WOULD BE VOLUNTARY. I AM NOT SURE ABOUT THIS.

  • verasoie (unverified)
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    Richard,

    There are many things that I disagree with in your post, most of all the idea of imposing vote-by-mail on the whole nation and opposing voter-verified electronic/paper ballots until that happens. Around the country, there's a lot of suspicion about vote-by-mail that'll take a long time to overcome, if ever, and we need to correct the obvious flaws in our electronic-voting system right away.

    We need voter-verified paper ballots now, even if votes are recorded electronically too, and can always root out a suspicious result by random sampling (say 1%), doing exit polls, and having the paper ballots as an ultimate back-up.

    Jimmy,

    Lose the CAPS, they're like SCREAMING, and couldn't stand to read what you said because of it.

  • (Show?)

    Jimmy, I have no idea what you wrote. My eyes hurt by the fourth sentence.

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    Jimmy, 1,2 & 4 are part of vote by mail. 3 won't happen under any circumstances; votes have to be collected and held, safe & secure, until balloting ends. running them thru a scanner on-the-fly is a disaster waiting to happen.

    as far as suspicion of vote by mail goes, considering how many people are choosing to vote absentee -- in WA, so many that they're about to give up and go vbm -- the suspicion factor seems to matter less than convenience and the chance to study your ballot and take time to get it right.

  • Jimbo (unverified)
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    The entire electronic trail of vote counts needs to be studied and certified for accuracy.

  • KC Card (unverified)
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    As a career letter carrier I must correct Jimmy's misguided reference to ballot's getting "trashed." The Postal Service and the union workers who sort and deliver the mail have made vote by mail the success it is today. There is simply no way that vote by mail ballots can be "trashed." On election night our union president, along with representatives from the elections office and postal officials, scour every truck, collection box and sorting machine to ensure that every ballot get's counted. Vote by mail works.

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    Florida just announced that they are giving up on electronic "touch screen" voting machines.

  • Gentry (unverified)
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    Having worked on the Diebold controversy here in Washington and Nationally for years, I have to completely disagree that Vote By Mail is any sort of model for the country to follow.

    Since the last October, I have been maintaining an ongoing blog on the issue here:

    http://www.novbm.com

    And Since last October, across the United States, I have identified and documented case after case of fraud and consequences that are the inevitable result of that shift. These include but are not limited to:

    1. A Virginia Mayor, who confessed and was sentenced last month for rigging his own election using absentee ballots in 2004.
    2. An entire county in Mississippi that is facing a US Justice Department trial for a vast conspiracy using absentees to systematically supress the votes of the white voters. In fact, it's the first case of its kind where black political leaders are accused of supressing the votes of white citizens.
    3. Cases here in King County of Voter Coercion, of which I am sure you are all aware.
    4. No cost savings in Snohomish county during the last election.
    5. Huge changes in election costs, causing campaigns to start early and be sustained longer, with recounts in small counties in Montana and California, and others, dragging on for weeks and weeks after election day. Elections which use to be counted and called on voting day.

    Real voting inegrity is decentralized, and audited by the public at the precinct level. Oregon's system has none of this. And at the end of the day, the VBM ballots are fed into Sequoia voting machines, the same company that gave us the machines that produced last years Florida fiasco.

    The rest of the country does not need to follow in Oregon's footsteps. Proprietary voting machines are bad enough, but unaudited voting machines in combination with VBM are worse.

    http://www.novbm.com

    For all this info and more.

  • ryarnell (unverified)
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    Gentry,

    Looked at your site. Not much there to indicate who you are or who you represent. You obviously haven't watched an Oregon VBM election up close. Those of us who have will attest that it works well. I doubt if you've found any complaints from voters here. All your anecdotal objections to Absentee balloting don't mean much since they don't describe a full fledged vote by mail system.

    First, ours is not an absentee voter system. The difference is huge. Since the whole electorate uses the mail ballot, all efforts toward making elections secure are directed at the mail ballot. Not so with absentee ballots which, in some states, aren't counted for quite some time after results are in and only certification awaits.

    Machines, made by Sequoia, may be used here but they're not networked. Each and every machine is tested both before and after each counting run against a batch of know ballots.

    I will admit that I was against Vote by Mail because I thought that voting at the precinct fostered a collegial feeling among voters. Now that I'm working in the field and running ballots for those who can't mail their ballot, didn't get one, spoiled a ballot and need a new one, all the procrastination notwithstanding, I can say that there are enough checks in the system, all done by professionals trained in the business, not volunteers, that I'm quite sure perpetrating fraud in this system would be very difficult.

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