The Ballot Box Security Question

November 5, 2012 8:55 am

by Nathan · 8 comments

Hanging chads, pregnant chads, dimples, all that good stuff.  Those terms came up in Florida during the 2000 presidential election between George W. Bush and Al Gore.  There was a big groundswell to update voting machine technology from punch cards and optical scan sheets to touchscreen since there’s not (theoretically) ambiguity with bits.  Either you selected that guy or that other guy for that office.

There have been studies done by universities on the security of Direct Recording Electronic Voting Machines.  Most recently, an article in the MIT Technology Review discusses DRE voting machines and has a spiffy graphic of which states use paper ballots, DRE machines with a paper trail, and DRE machines with no paper trail:

Of those states that use DRE machines, Florida, North Carolina, Virginia, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Wisconsin, Colorado, and Nevada are considered swing states, and as you can see from the map, Florida, Virginia, Pennsylvania, and Colorado do not have any sort of voter-verified paper trail.  The main issue is that sometimes computers make mistakes and might record the wrong data to the storage media.  There have been supposed reports of the machines checking the wrong box.  Of course, these reports usually come up every presidential year.

Now, correct me if I’m mistaken, but I was under the impression that Georgia was due to review the use of our DRE machines.  Personally, I’d like to see a receipt that would be printed out of the machine that I could review and then drop in a locked box that would be sealed until after the election was over.  Maybe this is something that Secretary of State Brian Kemp and the legislature work on for the 2014 or 2016 elections.

benevolus November 5, 2012 at 9:45 am

Just use ScanTron. It’s cheap, it’s easy, it’s existing, it’s well known, it’s already used for provisional and absentee ballots. And it’s paper for recounts.

Andre November 5, 2012 at 9:55 am

Benevolus, you and I agree.

I explicitly vote absentee so that I can use the paper ballots given.

I wonder how much it would cost to switch from DREs to scantron paper ballots.

Stefan November 5, 2012 at 10:23 am

I vote early in georgia, but by mail in oregon.

Calypso November 5, 2012 at 10:44 am

Voting by mail costs me too much. At $.45 postage per ballot, I spend darn near $500 every election.

SallyForth November 5, 2012 at 8:14 pm

Not me – I just put on my sneaks and run all over Fulton County voting from 7 to 7.

Meanwhile, I definitely support going to scan paper ballots, so we have a tangible one to actually verify before we turn it in and also actual paper ballots for recounts – instead of the current reprint of what may be computer error that is all a candidate can get.

benevolus November 5, 2012 at 8:18 pm
Calypso November 5, 2012 at 8:35 pm

Thanks bene, great idea. I can probably get another 200 ballots out for the same money using bulk mail.

analogkid November 5, 2012 at 9:47 am

When Karen Handel ran for SOS in 2006, her platform included creating a paper trail for electronic voting machines. After she fixed that, she ran for governor in 2010 and won.

One of the above sentences is true.

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