Monday, September 26, 2005

Oakland Tribune editorial supports transparency in computerized vote counts

Saturday's Oakland Tribune and other Alameda Newspaper Group papers carried an editorial Saturday urging more, not fewer checks on the accuracy of votes and tabulations. This newspaper group publishes papers throughout Alameda County, where paperless touchscreen machines have been deployed countywide since 2002. This is the fourth major newspaper in a county where significant numbers of e-voting machines have been purchased to editorialize in favor of public verification of software vote counts, which would be required if SB 370/Bowen is signed into law by Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger. Other papers in e-voting counties that have weighed in on public verification and have urged the Governor to sign SB 370 include the San Jose Mercury News (Santa Clara county), the Riverside Press Enterprise (Riverside county) and the Bakersfield Californian (Kern county). The Governor has until October 9 to sign or veto SB 370, or to allow it to become law without his signature. See Verified Voting's action alert to find out how you can help. The Alameda Newspaper Group editorial is featured below.


California must retain election transparency

Our elections are held to transfer political power between the voters and the government, not for the convenience of local election officials.

That's the belief of Kim Alexander, president of the nonprofit California Voter Foundation. Her comments came after members of the California Association and Clerks and Elections Officials wrote to Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger claiming that computerized touch-screen voting has made the state's manual recount law obsolete.

The clerks don't want to resort to recounts, as they have for 40 years, if the accuracy of the vote comes into question.

State Sen. Debra Bowen, D-Marina del Rey, chairwoman of the Senate Elections and Apportionment Committee, said that doing away with protections and vote recounts that check accuracy is "an enormous mistake."

The clerks and election officials say the paper printouts required by state law in California and 25 other states are jam-prone and create administrative nightmares that would be "onerous and time consuming."

Instead, they propose "parallel monitoring," a system that tests the touch-screens by conducting a scripted mock election on Election Day and then checking to see if the votes were recorded properly. It does not, however, check whether the votes are recorded or tallied properly.

They also admit that computerized voting alone is vulnerable to fraudulent programming.

Alexander said any recounting or check of the vote should not be "sorted out in the back room but publicly, because we want voter confidence."

It's another argument against investing too much in touch-screen voting, which became popular after the 2000 presidential elections and the month-long crisis over the hanging chads in Florida.

Computer scientists voiced concerns as early as 2003 about relying entirely on computers for voting, as it opens the door to new problems with programming error and fraud. Their solution was the voter-verified paper trail.

But the election officials, whose responsibility it is to check and make sure that the votes are recorded and tabulated correctly, say that is what makes their job "onerous." They would prefer to do parallel monitoring.

Instead, we suggest local election officials use their insider's knowledge and insight to recommend how vendors can make such machines more accurate and verifiable. We must find ways of checking the accuracy of individual votes, the results and whether or not the process has been tampered with. If we can't, we need a simpler system of voting that can be checked for accuracy.

We need more - not fewer - checks on the accuracy of votes and tabulations. In this new era, we must preserve California's manual recount law.

No comments:

Post a Comment