Republicans in Texas County Reject Paperless Primary
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By Sean Flaherty, Iowans for Voting Integrity
December 02, 2007
But Voters in South Carolina and 12 Other States Will Vote on Paperless Voting Machines
The Republican Party of Wharton County, Texas has decided that the the ES&S iVotronic is not reliable enough to use in its March 2008 primary election. Wharton County Republican Party chairwoman Debra Medina announced that the party's 22 precinct chairs had agreed to use voter-marked paper ballots counted by optical scanners.
The iVotronic will also be used statewide in the South Carolina Presidential primaries on January 19 and January 26. Counties in 10 other states will also use the iVotronic in next years' primaries.
The Wharton County Republicans' decision followed an incident in the November 7 election in which a local businessman tried to vote on one proposed constitutional amendment, and saw his previous vote for another proposed amendment change before his eyes.
The iVotronic is the same voting machine that recorded an implausible number of undervotes in a 2006 Florida Congressional election, and thereby influenced Florida's decision to abandon direct-recording electronic voting. The machine has become notorious for elections with abnormally high undervotes, vote-flipping on both the review screen and the selection screen, lost votes, and added votes.
In all, 13 states appear set to run Presidential primaries that use paperless machines either exclusively or extensively. These include Virginia, Florida, and Maryland, which have passed legislation to end paperless voting but are in various stages of transition.
In addition to the iVotronics, paperless states will also use equipment manufactured by Diebold and Sequoia, machines found to have severe security vulnerabilities by an independent review team commissioned by California Secretary of State Debra Bowen. Bowen has judged the Diebold and Sequoia systems too insecure for use as a primary voting system in her state's February 5 primary. A Diebold system was hacked in 2006 by Princeton computer scientists, who were able to write a vote-switching program that could pass rigorous pre-election testing and spread from machine to machine like a virus. The AVS WinVote was recently disallowed for use in Pennsylvania after almost 2000 source code anomalies were uncovered during federal certification testing. The company's application for certification was terminated by the Election Assistance Commission last week, but voters in Virginia and Mississippi will still use them to cast votes next year.
But no matter what system is used, paperless electronic voting is inherently dangerous to democracy, as thousands of computer scientists and other technologists have concluded
Election officials and party leaders in the paperless states have an unenviable job. They were promised that the equipment they bought in the last four years was reliable and secure, and are gradually realizing that they were told wrong. But now they have primary elections to run. Should they trust to hope that the votes are recorded accurately, or should they put themselves through what would no doubt be a difficult process of implementing a paper ballot contingency?
Time is short, but there is no fair alternative: no voter in the Presidential primaries should be required to trust his or her vote to a paperless machine. The Wharton County Republicans' Medina said it best:
"I don't want to be on the front page of any newspaper having to say our vote (was) unreliable," she said. "We work very hard to get voters to the polls, and if we can't rely on the vote to be the intent of the people, what are we doing?"
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