Jason Osgood or Sam Reed?

Sam Reed skates along as Washington’s Secretary of State for no good reason. Many Democrats mistakenly believe he is their “friend” because the 2004 recount went to Gregiore. Republicans don’t really like him, but they like him “just enough.” While the majority of Washington newspapers and endorsements have gone to Sam Reed, I for one, have been fighting against Sam Reed for 5 years now .

On Sam Reed’s watch as Secretary of State, Washington bought into privately owned and controlled vote counting software, and Mr. Reed has continuously certified software that should not have been permitted on our vote counting machines under Washington State Law. From Diebold to ES&S to Sequoia, Touchscreen voting, or centralized vote counting Optical Scan machines, Sam Reed has never met a proprietary piece of vote counting software he didn’t like.

In addition, Mr. Reed seems to have no vision for using the office to bring new industries, the kind we need in the 21st Century, to the state of Washington. I want a Secretary of State to be out front, talking about wind energy, solar, biodiesel, and in-sourcing jobs rather than sending them overseas. Mr. Reed, for all his faults, seems to have no positives that I can think of… except a keen ability to slither through one election to the next without having to suffer the consequences of his very bad and undemocratic decisions.

In addition, Mr. Reed is a vocal, and national proponent of Vote-By Mail. Obviously, as the Director of the No Vote-By Mail Project I have a thing or two to say about the problems inherent in liberalized vote-by mail systems. But this year takes the cake… 

I tried to vote for Jason Osgood in the primaries this year. But I got a letter instead saying my vote didn’t count. This year since I’m forced to vote through the mail, tomorrow I’ll be filling out my absentee ballot, and once again I’ll try to vote for Jason Osgood, and I hope you do as well. But I’d recommend sending that ballot in just as early as you can, lest your vote get lost in the rush of ballots as we near Nov. 4th like mine was in the primaries.

Jason Osgood is a computer programmer and locally known voting activist who will set a new direction in the office. Mr. Osgood has pledged to defend my right to a secret ballot, and in my personal interactions with Jason he has been honest, thoughtful, and knowledgeable in the problems and solutions needed in our voting systems in Washington State. Honestly, there are few people I know who aren’t more qualified than Sam Reed to hold the office, but Jason Osgood is one of the more qualified people I know who could be running for the office this year. He’s a computer expert with a passion for accurate, secure and secret voting. Mr. Osgood has risen to the challenge and put together a respectable campaign, and a few great TV ads. I wish he had enough money to run them on TV more frequently.

So send in your vote early for Jason, and maybe send him a check in the last two weeks of the election. But either way, Sam Reed does not deserve your vote.

What is a secret ballot? Trust but Verify!

 What is a Secret Ballot? Ask this question, and you’re likely to get many answers. To some it’s simple, to others complex. But in essence a secret ballot must remain secret before being publicly counted. If the secrecy is by design open to intrusion then no secret ballot really existed in the first place. And if the security is controlled by private rather than public oversight, then no verifiability of the validity of the system exists on which to trust a secret ballot voting method.

Notice in the above cartoon, the Secret Ballot is fundamentally paired with a Secret Ballot Booth. This makes the secrecy of the ballot absolute, as no one is allowed to enter the ballot booth with the voter, except for cases of disability assistance. A controlling boss, or spouse, can’t force you to reveal how you vote in the privacy of the voting booth. However, if you change that system slightly, and take away the voting booth, do you really have a secret ballot?

Another aspect of a strong secret ballot is that it prevents vote-buying and selling. One of the reasons, in fact, that the secret ballot was introduced in the first place was to prevent this practice. A voting booth prevents vote-selling and vote-buying by making it impossible to verify how the person paid to vote, voted. Any system that makes it possible to attach a voter to their vote fundamentally undermines the secret ballot.

The precinct system in the United States, has, like the British System, used privacy ballot booths. The private, but public, voting booth is one key to a secret ballot system. The publicly counted precinct system is the other key to the system. However, that has been lost throughout the country, as we have moved to mostly “centrally counted” voting in which the ballots are transported to the County for central vote tabulation.

Why are both the voting booth and the precinct, preferably hand-counted systems, important? Well it’s really about the nature of trust and trustworthiness. In the precinct system , when the polls close, the ballot box is opened, and the ballots are counted in front of everyone that wants to witness it. Nowadays it could also be videotaped and webcast. Okay, so this system is fully transparent to the voting public, and therefore the public trusts in the system. Take away that transparency, and no longer can the voting public verify the system, at least where they live, with their own eyes, and participation.

As a counter example to the secret ballot precinct system, on the West Coast, the powers that be are pushing towards 100% forced mail voting from Washington to California. But a vote-by mail or absentee ballot is not “really” a strong type of secret ballot because the system is open to coercive efforts on the part of those inclined. Common examples of forced voting include employers or union representatives requiring employees to reveal their “absentee ballot” before turning it in, just as Vladimr Putin’s operatives were accused of recently. Egregious examples of the ways in which the secrecy of absentee ballots are routinely breached exist throughout the United States law books, arrests, and court cases. Plenty of examples are readily available internationally as well.

A Vote-By Mail, or Absentee Ballot, is also fundamentally open to vote-selling, because it is easy to prove how you vote under that system. How much is a vote worth anyway? If an election got close, one in which they are already spending millions to market, comes down to 500 votes, I suspect absentee ballots could become fairly expensive.

The precinct level vote count insures another level of transparency, essentially verification through public counting. Centralized vote count systems, for example when the County rather than the Precincts count the votes, intrudes upon the secret ballot by removing vote counting from public view and public control. This makes the system unverifiable by the general public and undermines the validity of the system. Under such a system the public must, “trust the system” with virtually no way to verify the validity said system.

In the precinct system, to verify the public count was seemingly legitimate, any voter can attend their local precinct, observe the counting procedures and watch the totals be publicly posted for all to verify as accurate and honest. 100% Vote-by mail and other remote voting systems inherently add limited verifiability for conducting the public-quality control that is possible through a properly regulated precinct level hand counted system.

A friend of the No Vote By Mail Project, Jason Osgood, who is apparently running for Secretary of State says it well, “Private Voting, Public Counting.” Or as Regan said, “Trust but verify.” However, with voting, I’d go a step further and say that the system itself should just be trustworthy. The precinct level “hand-counted” or “hand-audited” paper ballot voting system is the only “secret-ballot” system I know of that can truly implement any type of secret ballot vote without fundmentally altering the very nature of the system. 

 

Ohio Secretary of State Wants to Make Voting Worse with VBM

Repeating the Vote-By Mail mantra, Ohio’s Secretary of State Brunner, “thinks some counties would find voting by mail more convenient and less expensive than opening polls on Election Day, and she wants the idea debated.”

Notice that she hasn’t argued that VBM is more secure, trustworthy, or acccurate. But she is worried about security:

http://www.dispatch.com/live/content/local_news/stories/2008/04/15/votebymail.ART_ART_04-15-08_A1_RE9UB8A.html?sid=101

“She also wants to keep county elections officials from taking voting machines home with them on the eve of an election. Some officials do that so they can take them directly to the polls the next morning, but that raises security concerns, she said.”

Oh gee, that’s swell. She’s against election officials TAKING THE MACHINES HOME WITH THEM! Like that’s somehow a radical stance on reform?

Secretary Brunner took out the Republican SOS so famous for Ohio, 2004. Kenneth Blackwell. It would be nice if she’d act like she understood the dangers of voting by mail as well.

The underlying problem with both is the private control of vital elements of the voting system. Physical control of the voting machines, the software, or vote-by mail, all separate the poll worker from the system of vote counting. Voting machines remove the counting control, vote-by mail puts the physical ballot in the hand of the post office instead of the poll worker. Both are big mistakes. The poll voting system puts all the control in the hands of the people, and so far all the other systems take that away. Everything else is a form of privatization.