Wednesday, December 10, 2003
::: Graham Bill Requires Paper Trail For Black Box Voting :::
Link to Ledger Article
U.S. Senator Bob Graham filed a bill Tuesday that would require touch-screen voting machines to create a paper record of all votes. In addition to a paper record, the Voter Verification Act would require surprise recounts in one half of one percent of voting jurisdictions. Precincts would have to have equipment in place to produce paper records by the 2004 presidential election. The bill mirrors a similar bill sponsored by Rep. Rush Holt of New Jersey, now pending in the House.
[NOTE: As of this writing, Sen. Graham's bill is not yet listed on Thomas.]
Florida will not require paper-trail e-vote
Apparently Florida Secretary of State Glenda Hood2 doesn't agree with California Secretary of State Kevin Shelley's recent decision to require e-vote paper-trails by 2006. While Hood says that Florida will be "very open-minded" in reviewing any printers submitted to the state for certification, the choice on whether to use them (if certified) would be left to the individual counties. Hood said making a paper trail a statewide requirement is not necessary because Florida has multiple safeguards to assure the accuracy and security of touch screens, which are now used in 15 Florida other counties 2. This position echoes the position of the Florida State Association of Supervisors of Elections, which issued a six-page statement last month defending touch screens and their reliability. Among the concerns expressed by this group are access for voters who are disabled and non-English speaking voters, issues also brought up by the equivalent organization in California. Other concerns expressed include paper jams, running out of ink and paper, and additional labor and costs.3 The Florida supervisors' report also accuses touch-screen critics of "committing a huge disservice to the voting public. The continued unfounded attacks on these systems erode the public's confidence."
1 Glenda Hood of course replaced Katherine Harris as Florida's Secretary of State. Harris was (almost) single-handedly responsible for the illegal disenfranchisement of over 65,000 black voters during the Florida 2000 election. For this, she was elected to the U.S. House in 2002, the same year that Jeb Bush was re-elected as Florida's governor. The disenfranchised black voters were not restored to Florida's voting roles until 2003. [See Katherine Harris below]
2 Palm Beach County uses Sequoia e-voting machines. Of Florida's 14 other counties currently using e-vote technology, 11 of them use ES&S. Thirty counties use Diebold's optical-scan system, but none has purchased the touch-screen version. In all, some 56.6 percent of the state's 9.4 million registered voters will face the Sequoia or ES&S touch-screen systems (so far) when they go to the polls next November.
3 Sequoia indicates that a ballot printer would add about $500 to the cost of an electronic voting machine.
Pardon my rant: So Florida's arguments against paper ballot back-up (at least its stated ones thus far) are threefold:
Access for handicapped and non-English voters
Advocate groups eroding the public's confidence
Additional costs and possible problems
All of this is nonsense. In the first case, the problem is purely a technical one, and for most of it, technical solutions already exist. In the rare cases where technical solutions might not yet be readily available, certainly no one would advocate against using older technologies to allow enfranchisement of affected voters. In a most real sense, black box advocacy is all about full enfranchisement of voters. For this to be to be realized, not only must all have access to the ballot as well as that all cast ballots must be accurately counted.
This of course brings me to their second point about advocate groups eroding public confidence. This is true. In fact, it is our only possible strategy. But according to the Supervisors of Elections' statement, the public's confidence is the real goal, and not that the public's confidence be well-founded. This logic baffles me. It suggests strongly that there is a serious disconnect somewhere; that their majority does not really understand what their job goals are.
Finally, the additional costs and problems. Certainly, there are additional costs, but these come with an important additional benefit; namely that voters can begin to have real confidence in their elections as opposed to a lulled and disassociated confidence. As for additional problems with the e-vote machine's printing performance, these are or should be procedural. To the extent that they are not, they are manufacturing problems, and should be addressed and paid for by the manufacturers. There is simply NO reason why multimillion dollar computer purchases should be conducted without what is called "maintenance contracts" which place the risks of malfunction on the manufacturer. While this seems to be the case with as far as I can see, the Diebold/Georgia 2002 case [Black Box Voting, download the PDFs or purchase the book] certainly indicates a lack of adequate sophistication on the part of states for properly constructing these contracts.
So the Florida arguments against paper ballot back-up are moot. They are either the strawmen of avoidance, or they are simply symptoms of how much more education we black box advocates have a lot of education left to do, even among our supposedly best educated.
Harris, a first term U.S. House Representative, is now eyeing a run for the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by Democrat Bob Graham, a move being similarly eyed by both the left and the right. Beltway Republicans fear that her candidacy for the Senate might generate a large Democratic backlash in Florida as a result of the 2000 election there, perhaps costing Bush the state and possibly the election itself, but Governor Jeb (the President's brother) has issued a stern warning about the national party overly interfering in state matters. Florida Democrats, on the other hand, welcome the entry of Harris for the Senate seat, hoping for exactly what the Beltway Republicans fear. Florida is after all a microcosm of the U.S. with simply north and south reversed.
Such polarization for the Florida vote can be easily envisioned by anyone familiar with the Harris role in denying the Gore-requested recounts of 2000. As polarizing as her role in this might be, this is after the 2000 election took place. Few understand Harris' role before the election, a role that had she not played, the aftermath would never have occurred. All of this is well documented in Chapter One (The Unreported Story of How They Fixed the Vote in Florida) of Greg Palast's new edition of The Best Democracy Money Can Buy", a chapter also serialized on Working Assets. If you don't know who Harris is yet, read this. It will knock your socks off.
Part 1 - Jim Crow in Cyberspace
Part 2 - Silence of the Media Lambs
Part 3 - A Black-List Burning for Bush
Part 4 - Disappeared Voters
Part 5 - From Planning to Execution to Inauguration
Part 6 - McKinney Nails the Confession
Part 7 - Voting Machine Apartheid
Part 8 - Katherine Harris -- 'Twisted'
Part 9 - The Katherine Harris Touch: Vote Rustling by Computer
Part 10 - Jim Crow in Cyberspace: Stealing 2004
Katherine Harris is now a U.S. Representative for the State of Florida. She should not be. She should instead be one of our felons, disenfranchised as she succeeded in making so many others without proper cause.