Securing the Vote

Election Day is over, and despite some local reports of problems with too few machines in some places and malfunctioning machines in others…it seems to have gone pretty smoothly. Regardless of your political bent, we should all be thankful for that.

It wasn’t that way for everyone, as the video to the left shows. No matter how many times this voter pushes one button, another lights up. It’s pretty freaky if you ask me and more than a little troubling.

This video is from Pennsylvania, not Tennessee. While the problem here is more likely a calibration issue, it certainly doesn’t do much to make folks feel like their vote is secure.

The truth is, the last thing people want is to feel like something shady is going on. That’s the rationale for all kinds of laws that impact voting.

The issue with touch-screen voting is and always has been the lack of a verifiable paper trail. As someone who works with computers all day, and so many of us do these days, we’ve all experienced the “I just lost everything” problem at one time or another. Touchscreen voting machines are just computers. In the absence of a paper trail, we might never know when that happens with touchscreen machines when they catastrophically fail.

In 2006 we made an investment in these machines. It was a bad investment if you ask me. At the time it took Democratic support to get these machines. I get that. But this wasn’t a strictly partisan issue then and it isn’t one now. I think both parties agree that unverifiable elections are unacceptable regardless of who’s in charge.

Since 2006, the company that first made the machines, Diebold, has gotten out of the election business, and many states have moved back to paper ballots.

Considering all the challenges we have here in Shelby Co., the fear about a correct count shouldn’t be one of them. We need to join the two Tennessee counties that got it right in the first place and the many states and local election commissions nationwide that are making the change and adopt paper ballots.

It just makes good sense, and right now is the right time.

Our next County-wide election isn’t until May of 2014…the County Primary. That gives us 17 months to prepare.

This won’t be the only change at the Election Commission. Word on the street is that there’s a top to bottom internal review in the near future, not to mention the Election Review Committee that the County Commission empaneled (of which I am a member). Integrating the shift to paper ballots in the reform process is both an efficient and intelligent way to restore confidence in the process.

There’s a lot more that needs to be done at the Election Commission, but removing one of the key sticking points, the lack of a verifiable paper trail, is one way to begin restoring confidence in the institution tasked with executing our elections.

We should all push to adopt paper ballots now. Here’s how to contact the members of the Shelby County Election Commission:

Chairman Robert Meyers

Norma Lester

George Monger

Dee Nollner

Steve Stamson

One thought

  1. Steve, 2014 is not only the next election, it is one of the every-eight-years big ballots, with lots of judicial races. On another subject–there is another interesting way to provide voter verification. It was being discussed when the touch screens were adopted, but the technology wasn’t really ready for it yet; maybe it is now. It is a system that assigns numbers to ballots and puts an image of the ballot on the internet. Voters can use the number to look up and see their ballots. No one else would have the number, so no one else could see the voter’s choices. It would require lots of computer power, but would eliminate the cost of paper ballots and the need for so much handling of paper, as would be required with optical scan. It would also eliminate the mechanical problems that were the issue with printers that provide paper trails. Something to think about.

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