A lot of people ask me if I’m just against every type of voting system? No. I am for precinct level hand counted paper ballots. I feel absentee ballots should be limited in use to those who truly need them.
The top 5 reforms I feel our current voting systems needs are:
- Precinct Level Hand Counts, Using Paper Ballots
- Optical Scanners to quickly verify results
- Hand Count Trumps machine count
- Current Software/Firware should be replaced with Publicly Owned, Open-Sourced and Escrowed Software
- HAVA needs rewritten by activists, not politicians. Automark Systems and Braille Readers, or similar systems should be in place to allow disabled to vote a secret ballot, but this system should not be used to undermine the voting integrity of the entire system, as touchscreens have been largely introduced, as have proprietary software contracts, on the basis of being HAVA compliant… HAVA needs a sort of voting activist People’s Review and Rewrite.
I like this statement of principles:
Includes County State and National Goals
There is an unmistakable question of integrity in our voting systems. Several flaws in electronic voting systems are jeopardizing the security of our votes from being calculated accurately. Private companies, primarily Diebold and PSI Group here in King County, control most of our voting machines and key processes in collecting and sorting absentee ballots. If we closely examine the software of these computerized voting machines, we find that the voting system is substandard of minimal security standards. In other words, these electronic voting machines that process our votes are such that any computer-savvy high school student could hack into the system given access.
With our votes not secure due to the system’s vulnerability to hackers, our vote could be altered or even erased. Citizens must believe that their voting system is without negligent flaws.
In order to ensure our votes are accurately counted, I propose the following solutions and security measures for King County’s voting procedures:
- Improve the quality and trustworthiness of the software for electronic voting systems by using publicly owned open source software to ensure that the software is able to be inspected by qualified computer programmers. Open source software makes the process transparent and opens the software code to inspection. But simply making the software open source will not solve the problem, the county should own the software so private companies cannot come back year after year demanding licensing fees, payment for maintenance, or improvements. Voting machines are easy to program accurately, this is not a complex algorithm requiing millions of lines of code. Rather it is a simple accounting program. The county should hire a few core programmers to write new code for the optical scan machines we already own, and after thorough testing, replace the code on the optical scan machines with publicly owned software. This proposal will save the county millions in the long run.
- In King County, the paper ballot is only useful if the procedures used to audit the system are designed to check the accuracy of the machines we use to count the paper. So while we must retain the voter verified paper ballot, it is not enough to have a paper ballot. California is already implementing a mandatory random audit of the paper against the machines, and Washington State must do the same. A random hand count at the precinct level, where machines are pulled at random, and the paper ballots counted by those machines are then counted by hand, is the only way in which we can be sure that the machines are working properly. Simple computers only do what the programming instructs, machine failures are not acceptable, and for security it must be assumed that inaccurate and faulty equipment is built that way on purpose. Random hand counts at the precinct level, before totals are sent to the “central count” at the county level, need to be implemented immediately.
- Public reporting at a precinct level needs to be brought back into the system. In the past, hand counted precincts were the standard, and before any totals were transmitted to the county, the totals were posted publicly for all election observers to see, challenge, or support. This system insured the public that all votes were counted accurately in their own precinct. With the Diebold machines this is no longer the case. These machines record votes onto a computer memory card, the cards are fed into another computer that then reads the memory cards, and that machine is connected to the county’s “central tabulator” via modem, and vote totals are transmitted by computer. If the count is inaccurate, or if any malicious code aimed at changing vote totals exist within the voting machines, the precinct level observers, voting officials, and voters have no way of catching this malfeasance. Machines perform as programmed. The only way to audit the computers counting our votes is to have procedures in place that once again allow people to “see” how the votes are counted.
- Triggered audits—when anomalies are found, for example, when polls come in with a greater than expected error rate compared to official counts reported, this should trigger a hand recount in those areas. Ensure anomalies are hand-audited and closely examined.
- Triggered run-off elections when the margin of error is greater than the margin of victory. Obviously this procedure needs to be implemented at the state level to prevent another fiasco like the last governor’s race.
- Requested audits–allowing the parties, the press, or individuals the right to audit when they want to pay for a recount. These sources should be allowed to pay for the recount in order to audit the system.
- Moving the primary date back to August. This would allow election workers more time to determine the primary’s winners, any recounts could have enough time to proceed, and ballots for the general election would be more likely to be mailed out on time. [This reform was implemented in Washington State]
- All counties in Washington should report at the same time. During last year’s governor’s race it was apparent that King County takes longer to count votes due to the size of the county and number of voters, this then unfairly portrays King County as changing the outcome of the race. The media spent weeks saying Dino Rossi was in the lead when no official tally had been determined. If all counties reported on the same date, then no inaccurate bias could be portrayed during the counting process statewide.
- The Director of Elections should be elected. It is an obvious conflict of interest to allow elected officials to appoint this position. As the King County Executive controls this position, he or she can therefore exert undue influence on whoever holds this job, taking away the appearance and the reality of independence in this position.
- Eliminate PSI Group from absentee voting system. The highest point of security risk for absentee ballots is when the absentee ballots are sent to PSI Group Inc. for sorting. The numbers of absentee ballots sent out are recorded, but there is no way to find out how many incoming ballots are filled out and sent back in, especially if they pass through PSI Group before being counted by elections officials. To ensure that there is no intrusion of security, getting PSI out of the absentee voting system entirely would eliminate the risk of absentee voting security. Ask yourself this question, if this company was named “Arthur Anderson” would it be appropriate to allow them to “sort” the ballots? The security around absentee ballots is a joke.
Voting is the most fundamental right of every citizen and every citizen should be guaranteed that their vote is counted with integrity in the voting system. We must respond to these breaches of security by putting forward significant changes in how we will cast our ballots in the future.
There are many sources for more information on this topic, and thousands of documented cases of Diebold’s voting machines changing vote totals, crashing during elections, and flipping elections. I mention a few of the best sources where you can find out more information on this topic below.
Bob Fitrikas and Harvey Wasserman, “How the GOP Stole America’s 2004 Election and Is Rigging 2008” available on Amazon.com. Also check out their article on Common Dreams:
Black Box Voting, Ballot Tampering in the 21st Century: http://blackboxvoting.org/
Jeffrey Dean, 23 counts of Embezzlment, 5 years in King County correction facilities, hired to program King County’s vote registration database.
An embezzler who specialized in sophisticated alteration of records of computerized systems was programming our voting system, and also had access to the printing of the ballots, and ties to the private company that sorts King County absentee ballots.