Sunday, November 16, 2008

Voting Machine Position Statement Clarification & Extension

Clarification and extension of Peacemakers Voting Machine Position Statement
Re: hand counting of ballots and auditing of election results.

From the previously adopted “Concerning Electronic Voting Machines” Position Statement(1):

… a simple, inexpensive, user-friendly, trustworthy and officially recognized voting system already exists. A system which requires no certification testing. A system which all citizens can understand and have confidence in. That is the Paper Ballot voting system(2). A ballot scanner can be trusted to count the ballots quickly, but only if the scanner is programmed and maintained by municipal workers, not by a private corporation, and the hand counted tally of paper ballots remains the official record of the election.

While not explicitly stated in the above excerpt, our expectation is that the hand counting of the paper ballots would take place at the polling place immediately upon closing of the polls. The counting should be performed by the same authorized and trained poll workers who had supervised and secured the polling place during voting. Ballot counting must be observed by representatives of the candidates and other interested citizens as conditions allow.

It is expected that any discrepancy between the hand count tally and a scanner tally will be immediately reconciled (explained and documented) while all interested parties are present. This is necessary due to the difficulty of maintaining acceptable chain of custody security after the polls close and the ballots are forwarded to election HQ. Chain of custody issues also demand that vote tallies be posted in public view at the polling place for the benefit of any interested citizen wishing to compare polling place tallies with those recorded at central tabulation.

Using this protocol the trustworthiness of the tallies is enhanced and the chain of custody risks are mitigated. Since the hand count of the paper ballots is the official record of the election(3), the scanner tallies can then serve as confirmation of the hand counts. Think of it as a redundant counting system which is dramatically more secure and trustworthy than either system standing alone.

Regarding required audits: The hand count might be thought of as a 100% audit of the scanner count or, preferably, the scanner count should be considered an automatic, contemporaneous electronic audit of the hand count.

(1) Referenced Voting Machine Position Statement reproduced on the reverse of this document.
(2) New York State Election Law Sec. 7-106 describes traditional paper ballot system.
(3) Election Reform & Modernization Act of 2005 created a new NYS Election Law Sec. 9-211 which requires audits and specifies that the results of a total manual count will be the record of canvass.

10/1/08 approved by the Peacemakers Action Committee.

1 comment:

Virginia Martin said...

Questions: One, you anticipate having the same poll workers who have just spent 16-hour days working the polls to count the ballots, correct? Election day is plenty long, believe me, and I shudder to think how an inspector would add several hours of (mentally sharp) work to that.

Two, you anticipate having an optical scanner confirm the hand count. A software-based tabulation system is by definition subject to easy manipulation and difficult if not impossible (computer experts say impossible) to be made hack-proof. So I don't see the point of adding the op-scan machine, other than to line the pockets of the op-scan vendors.

I like your idea of citizen advisory election boards, btw.