Reform activists are calling on the top state election official to undertake hand-counted audits of paper ballots as a check on electronic vote counting accuracy in the November general election. Paul Stokes of United Voters of New Mexico (UVNM) and John W. Boyd, an election law specialist with an Albuquerque firm, have urged Secretary of State Rebecca Vigil-Giron to advance the implementation of the mandatory voting machine audit that was approved by the state legislature but not scheduled to go into effect until January lst.
In a letter to Secretary Vigil-Giron, Boyd and Stokes wrote, “We believe that random audits of ‘paper trails’ and/or paper ballots are a key element of any election. Without a random audit, any election results will be of doubtful accuracy and integrity…In the public interest, we ask that you do the right thing and take the trouble to conduct a proper, random audit of the results of this November’s election. You will be a hero to thousands of New Mexicans.”
The letter pointed out that a large body of evidence indicates computer-based voting machines make errors and can be manipulated to falsify election results. These errors and manipulations often can only be detected by manual inspection and auditing of the paper ballots themselves. The state legislature, the letter added, has given its support to Governor Richardson’s initiative to use paper ballots counted by optical scanning machines in the election next month. This will provide an amplified paper audit trail that can be hand counted to check scanning machine accuracy. It will also reduce reliance on electronic touch screen and push button machines whose vote counting cannot be confirmed for lack of a paper trail.
VerifiedVotingNM, which with UVNM forms a coalition of organizations and individuals concerned with strengthening vote count accuracy, also supports the audit request. Said Charlie Strauss, member of the VVNM steering committee, “We want this audit enshrined right from the outset as part of the process. The intent of the law was to have the introduction of audits coincide with the introduction of paper ballots. If paper ballots are being implemented early, so should the manual paper ballot audit.”
Boyd is with Freedman Boyd Daniels Hollander Goldberg and Ives, which, after the 2004 general election and along with Voter Action, filed suit on behalf of New Mexico voters to end use of electronic voting machines that do not provide a voter-verifiable and auditable paper trail. Boyd was also lead lawyer in the suit that won a supreme court decision in May invalidating a 2005 law which required candidates to pay the full cost of a recount up front.
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