Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Expanding the Scope and New Bill

Yesterday I spent some time doing my first press release for Rep. Peña. This morning, we were rewarded by seeing a portion of our work in The Monitor. It's fun to see something I worked on appear in the papers. Of course, it's also fun to see stuff that I do appear on the web.

There is a lot of interest, at the moment, in the legislation Rep. Peña filed. For more information, see HB 123. The gist of the bill is that it would require voting machines to produce a paper record of your vote for you to review before you press the red "VOTE" button. This way, you can be sure that what you see on the computer screen is exactly the same vote that will counted.

The main benefit of the bill is that it would make us, the voters, more confident in the voting machines. More importantly, a paper trail also gives election officials the ability to audit the voting systems to make sure that they are working correctly. And finally, having a paper receipt would also make it possible to do a manual recount if something went wrong with one of the ccomputers

The way things are right now, if you cast a vote, you don't really know for sure if it got counted right or if it got counted at all. We are to believe in God, who is perfect, but sometimes we question. Therefore, it's not a big stretch to question our faith in these voting systems. A wise man once said, "trust, but verify". At home, we trust our computers, but we all know that you need to save the file you are using and ,once done, backup your work in case something happens to the computer. That is essentially all we need, a backup system in case the electronics go haywire.

Another drawback to paperless voting is that if we are auditing the machines to ensure their veracity, how do we go about doing that? Any tampering would occur during an election rather than in between. Therefore, testing the machines "off season" would be worthless. It would be much better to audit elections on actual data as it comes in.

Finally, the question of recounts. If your votes are all electronic and the person challenging the election claims that there was tampering, how do you sort out electrons to prove otherwise? You won't find any subatomic hanging or dimpled chads. With a paper trail, you could, if you had to , manually count every vote. This would take care of instances where there is a power outage or surge that wipes out the memory of a voting machine. It would deal with "touchscreen rage" in which a voter takes it out on the voting machine. It would deal with allegations of a vote-stealing virus in the machine or even programmer error. It would deal with any weird computer stuff that just loses data; as a former computer tech, I know it happens. Simply put, Rep. Peña's bill makes it possible to "reconstruct" an election if it ever becomes necessary.

To put this in the simplest terms, whenever you work on an important document on a computer, you ALWAYS save and back up you work. I think most of us have lost work on the computer, at some point, because we did not save or back up. The same is true for voting machines. The paper copy is a backup copy of your vote in case something goes wrong.

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