Thursday, April 9, 2009

How the NY-20 Congressional Race Demonstrates the Need for Lever Machines

Counting the paper ballots in the NY District 20 Congressional race is underway. I've been thinking about how lever machines make the counting different from Minnesota, or from NY if an op-scanner system is implemented.

Of course the first difference is that no one is calling for a recount of the votes cast on the lever machines. People have confidence in the lever machines. On election night, in full public view, the back of each machine is opened and the numbers are read off. All that's left are the absentee and affidavit ballots. In Minnesota, no one trusts anything. Count and count again.

Re-Media Election Transparency Coalition: "Unlike the recent close race in Minnesota that was decided by a manual recount of post-election night paper ballots, not shown to have been the same ballots cast at the election, today’s commencement of New York’s absentee paper ballots will be publicly observed from the moment they are cast, through the counting. Novick says, “New York’s Constitution has always required an observable, open electoral process that produces evidence of the count at the time the votes are cast, ensuring maximum protection against fraud.”

“The Republican Party will have the proof it seeks, at least this year.” “But,” she warns, “If we permit the State to abandon our lever voting system for software-based scanners, it will be the last time any one will have evidence of who won the election.”"

And the cost is different -- A lever election is cheaper -- no high price technician doing software changes, no printing of paper ballots, attorney's fees are lower, and the labor costs for election officials are lower.

And the amount of time is different -- no audit of paper ballots, or total recount of paper ballots.

The worry-level is different -- no wondering whether the software was hacked or contains bugs, the electronics malfunctioned, the audit is an adequate size sample, or -- as in Clay County, Tennessee, where election officials have been indicted -- worry over old-fashioned election fraud.

Seems like keeping levers is something we could all get behind! (I think I've said that before.)

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