October 24, 2007
Parallel universes — the public vs. “public officials”
Voters in Maryland want to fund a switch to paper ballots by more than two to one, according to a poll by Gonzales Research and Marketing Strategies. This is an interesting result since Maryland was the first state to switch to paperless DRE’s and therefore voters in that state have the most experience with having their votes counted on non-auditable non-recountable less-than-transparent computers (although the Director of Elections in MD seems to be unaware that a machine that runs the Windows operating system like the Diebold voting machines used in her state are really computers). Now with a 95 percent confidence level and a 3.5 percent margin of error the views of Marylanders are known: dump the Diebold boat anchors and buy optical scan machines. Then the voters will be able to fill out their own ballot using pen an paper and verify their selections before putting it in the ballot box. You can find the survey results in the attached Word doc.Maryland Poll Report
Maryland will be following the lead of Florida (notorious for hanging, pregnant and dangling chads in 2000) , with recently moved to replace their DRE’s with optical scan systems under the leadership of Republican Governor Charlie Crist. This is a bi-partisan movement toward paper since Democrat O’Malley is the resident of the statehouse in Maryland.
All this looks common-sensical — replacing paperless touchscreens with paper ballots counted on optical scan systems — ballots that are by their very nature verified, auditable and recountable — all necessary conditions for election results that voters can have confidence in. Voters want paper, elected public officials listen to voter preferences.
But wait — now we have the Election Center (www.electioncenter.org), a non-profit group that purports to speak for election officials. (Disclaimer: most election officials are hardworking, dedicated public servants in the best sense of the word). But this group, the Election Center, that claims to represent election officials offers corporate membership that allows, even encourages vendors to mix and mingle with election officials at sponsored events. In other words it gives vendors extra “face time” with the folks they are trying sell goods and services to. So is the Election Center really looking out for the best interests of public officials ? — or the best interests of vendors?
So what does the Election Center think of paper ballots? Quite simply, the Election Center hates, loathes and despises paper ballots. The Election Center is in a different universe from the voters in Florida and the voters in Maryland and voters in many other states who have a strong preference for voting on paper. There is a visceral satisfaction to actually marking the paper with one’s selections.
Just about the same time that the survey from Maryland hit my e-mail box, I also received a decision matrix prepared by the Election Center. This document was an analysis of pending Federal legislation, H.R. 811, the Voter Confidence and Increased Accessibility Act of 2007. The fear and loathing of paper ballots permeates the analysis. Since the purpose of the H.R. 811 is to establish the paper ballot as the official vote of record, the Election Center report targets these sections of the bill for either removal or major rewrites (read ‘watering down’). Take a look at the attached document to see how this plays out: again and again the revisions proposed by the Election Center would eliminate or weaken the paper ballot provisions. Election Center Reccommendations re H.R. 811
We have a perfect example here of groups existing in parallel universes — the voters at large have a 2-1 preference for paper ballots while the Election Center uses its muscle to promote a view that is distinctly at odds with the opinions of the public. The Election Center purports to represent election officials. Election officials are actually just employees who are hired by the voters to administer elections. In my opinion, election officials are overstepping their bounds when they ignore the opinions of the voting public. If the voters prefer to vote on paper it is the job of election officials to run the best paper ballot election possible . Governors Crist and O’Malley, as well as the 219 members of the U.S. House of representatives who are co-sponsors of H.R. 811, are examples of elected officials who have their ear to the ground for the preferences of their constituents.