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Verifiable Voting in Martin County

Dave Dew, Chair Martin County Democrats

The road to verified voting has been long but the end is in sight.

By Dave Dew
February 1, 2007

A few days after the November 7th election I received a call from Martin County's Supervisor of Elections, Vicki Davis. The debacle in Sarasota had upset her and many of the honorable Supervisors in Florida. The ES&S touch screen machines used by Sarasota County in the failed District 13 Congressional race seemed, to most insiders who work with the touch screen machines, to have been the reason for the loss of 18000 votes in the race and the defeat of Christine Jennings (Democrat). There but for the grace of God went Martin, Broward, Dade, and a number other counties. It could have happened here as easily as in Sarasota.

I called in Congressman Tim Mahoney to confer with Vicki and staff one evening and the discussion and equipment review went on for hours. The Congressman has a degree in Computer Sciences so he was well aware of the problem. He agreed with Vicki Davis that something had to be done, and quickly. You see, we are between a rock and a hard place with the verifiable voting/paper trail movement. Congress is soon to take up HR550 which will probably mandate the addition of printers to the already faulty equipment that is being used. Such a mandate would cause every state to require the use of printers or scanners in the voting process. Suppliers wouldn't be able to meet the outstanding orders for such equipment for many years. Well past 2008 to probably 2010 or later. Martin County needed an answer now.

Vicki and I agreed that the simplest, easiest and cheapest answer would be to ask the Florida House and Senate to authorize, on a temporary basis, a comprehensive "mail vote" process as is done in Oregon. Substantively a total "absentee vote" will be done entirely by mail. I got in touch with the House and Senate representatives involved and soon discovered that they would not agree to such a simple answer to a complicated problem. What I didn't know was that Governor Crist and Congressman Wexler were already working on their own answer to the problem.

Governor Crist and Congressman Wexler announced today their cure for the verifiable voting problem and hopefully it will be passed on by the House and Senate and machines will be ordered before Federal HR 550 becomes law. Here's how it works for us;
Martin County now has approximately 700 of the ES&S touch screen machines. The Supervisor will request to trade most to ES&S touch screen machines for ES&S Optical Scanners to be used in the Precincts on Election Day. The ballots will be printed on paper and marked by each voter and then processed thru the Optical Scanners on Election Day and the results will transfer to the Election Headquarters for totaling. It is our suggestion that, to avoid any possibility of hacking that each machine be manually audited frequently during the Election Day.

Early voting days will employ the use of the old touch screen machines, hopefully equipped with workable printers. Since the early voting places are staffed by supervisors that process will probably work well. The touch screens are needed to handle the Disabled voters as required by Federal Law. Whether these machines will actually be used for early voting by able voters is still under discussion. Federal laws that now control voting are more of a hindrance that an answer to the problem so we can only hope that Congressmen Mahoney, Wexler and Klein can lead the way to workable voting procedure laws nationwide.

Governor Crist is behind this process as is Congressman Wexler. It can work if it is accomplished quickly. I personally think that it's the best answer we can agree upon to assure that your vote is actually counted on Election Day and that we can once again hold our heads up in Florida.

Background Information:
Voting System Options
Electronic Voting Systems

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