I’m pretty much staying in this area today with these posts, as it turns out.
As I read the article in the Bucks County Courier Times about the fact that new voting machines have been selected by the county commissioners, and I saw the quote from Deena Dean, the director of the county’s board of elections, I couldn’t help but remember Theresa LePore, the Supervisor of Elections for Palm Beach County in Florida, which was the epicenter of the recount storm in the 2000 presidential election between Dubya and Al Gore.
See, LePore thought she was actually doing the right thing also by making the butterfly ballots easier for the predominantly-senior-citizen population to read, though in the process she introduced the potential for fraud that didn’t exist before by messing up the layout of the ballot (instead of the presidential candidates lining up as Bush, Gore and Pat Buchanan, it appeared as if Buchanan was second, and he received a lot of votes intended for Gore – there were many other problems of course, but that was one of them).
How many ways did the Bucks County Commissioners mess this up?
Well, in addition to dragging their feet because they really didn’t want the new machines anyway, thus risking federal funds, they ended up purchasing the most expensive type of machine (the Danaher Corp. machine) that DOES NOT guarantee a paper trail of each vote.
(By the way, Danaher is the last name of the characters played by both Maureen O’Hara and Victor McLaglen, who are brother and sister, in “The Quiet Man,” so this post has an Irish theme also!)
Oh, but the county’s residents are going to be more familiar with the interface, if you will, of the new machines, since apparently it is most like that of the machines that are being replaced. And apparently, THAT was the determining factor. That’s important, sure, but that shouldn’t make or break the deal. What’s the problem with a short-term learning curve on the new machines as long as they ensure accuracy?
I believe that it will literally take a federal law to ensure paper-trail compliance (such as the one Rush Holt once sponsored in the U.S. House – click here for more). There are some things that states should do as opposed to the federal government, but this isn’t one of them.
And even though Sandra Miller, the lone Democrat on the board of commissioners, ended up voting against the machines, what did she think she was going to accomplish by trying to show up the Coalition for Voting Integrity?
Another thing – I have to laugh at the way the Bucks County Courier Times, in an editorial today, framed this whole issue as if somehow “activists” are to blame for the government making the county spend the money on the new machines. Florida, November 2000…voting officials in Palm Beach and Miami-Dade holding up keypunch cards to check for fully-punched, hanging versus partially perforated or dimpled chads…the Repug-orchestrated Miami-Dade riot to stop the recount long enough for Katherine Harris, Bush’s Florida campaign chairperson, to certify the results and send the whole mess to court…these machines have been purchased in an admittedly feeble attempt TO MAKE SURE THAT NONSENSE NEVER HAPPENS AGAIN!!
Also, I don’t completely understand why the representative from Election Systems and Software would have denigrated his own product the way he did by saying that the company’s optical scanning machine would be less reliable than the Danaher touch screens – why would this person blow the sale by doing that? However, even though the ES&S machine apparently won’t be used (as of now, anyway), I want to point out some drawbacks of the Danaher machine (as mentioned in an editorial this morning in the Courier Times which, despite this, heartily congratulated the commissioners):
What the critics (of the Danaher machine) prefer is a paper ballot prepared by the voters and read and stored electronically. This would create the opportunity for a hand count if needed.Of course they didn’t make a risky pick. They just picked a machine that doesn’t allow for a backup and created the potential for a legal “hornet’s nest” if something ever goes wrong.
The paper record provided by the open-face (Danaher) machine can be printed out, which means it simply reflects the information stored in the machine. And if that information is in dispute or has somehow become corrupted, there is no written record to compare the electronic data to.
This is where the new system could run into trouble, although the new machines could be retrofitted for paper ballots if state election officials approve it. Meanwhile, the commissioners will have to cross their fingers, which isn’t to suggest they made a risky pick.
Just to repeat, click here to help make sure the feds take care of this, since Jim Cawley and the Bucks commissioners apparently can't handle it themselves.