Monday, February 4

The Paper (Ballot) Chase

The Iowans for Voting Integrity are busy trying to convince the Governor that Michael Mauro's judgment is better than his (and in my estimation, either path is better than the road we are on--but I agree paper ballots are easiest to deal with in case of a recount). See below.

A citizen group voiced support for Iowa Secretary of State Michael Mauro's
request to the Assembly for full funding of a statewide system of optically
scanned paper ballots, and praised lawmakers in both parties for their
endorsement of the proposal. Secretary Mauro's proposal received extensive
coverage in Sunday's Des Moines Register.

“Secretary Mauro's proposal is
right on track. Voter-marked paper ballots offer the most reliable record of the
voter's intent,” said Sean Flaherty, co-chair of Iowans for Voting Integrity.
“The ballots are durable, and can be recounted easily by hand.”

To comply with Iowa's new law requiring a paper trail voting systems, counties that
use touch screen voting machines must either intall ATM-style printers to the
machines, which show voters a printout of their choices on a continuous roll, or
they can scrap the touch screens and purchase a paper ballot system, in which
voters mark individual paper ballots by hand or by using an assistive device for
voters with disabilities. The paper ballots are then read by an optical scanner
and can be recounted by hand.

The ATM-style printers for the touch
screens have come under criticism from all sides in recent years. They store
votes on a continuous roll, raising voter privacy concerns, and are prone to
printer jams, which can cause votes to be lost. Studies have shown that the
paper trail printout is not checked by a significant number of voters, and
expert security reports from Ohio and California showed that the paper roll is
easily damaged either maliciously or by accident.

The user-friendliness
of touch screens is also questionable. Last year members of Iowans for Voting
Integrity did a study of undervotes in the statewide races on the November 2006
ballot, and found that for all the contested statewide races, counties that used
only voter-marked paper ballots with optical scan had the lowest undervote,
counties that used a mix of paper ballots and touch screens had the
second-highest undervote, and counties that used only touch screens at the
polling place had the highest undervotes. An undervote is the difference between
the number of valid ballots cast in the election, and the number of votes
tallied for an office. Undervotes are considered by many voting experts to be
the single most reliable measure of a voting system's effectiveness and
usability. “When you see the undervote correlate with the equipment in all the
contested races, you have a good idea what the best system is,” said Flaherty.

After the state gets optical scan equipment, the next step in securing
the vote is mandating random hand counted audits after the election to check
electronic ballot tallies. Computer scientists who study voting systems have
called strongly for routine hand audits. Over a dozen states already plan to do
audits of the November 2008 election. “You can't just have the paper; you have
to use it for it to matter, “ Flaherty said.

Mauro's push for optical
scan puts Iowa on the same path as a number of other states. Last month,
Colorado Governor Bill Ritter announced an agreement with his state's lawmakers
to advance legislation requiring a statewide optical scan system by November,
and last week Maryland's governor announced funding for a statewide conversion
from touch screens to optical scan. Florida plans to convert all polling places
to optical scan by November.

Click here to sign Verified Voting's alert urging
Governor Culver and legislators to fund paper ballot voting systems, with
optical scanners and ballot-marking devices for voters with disabilities. Call
the Governor as well at 515-281-5211. Then please forward this on

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