Electronic Voting and Voter Verified Paper Ballots
Even though some U.S. states have been using electronic voting equipment for quite some time with little controversy or accusations of fraud, in the aftermath of the 2000 presidential election and the adoption of electronic voting by more and more voting districts, many more citizens have called for an auditable voter-verified ballot to be attached to all electronic voting machines to ensure the accuracy of the election results.

On the surface, electronic voting will not inherently lead to fraud or inaccurate results.  In fact, many other voting systems and ballot designs cannot be relied upon to accurately reflect the intention of the voter. Human voter error is the root cause of many wasted or contestable ballots. In fact, voters who incorrectly or incompletely punched out chads on their ballots caused much of the controversy during the 2000 election. Electronic Voting is one way to reduce human error and eliminate issues voters have faced in past elections.

Electronic voting equipment has three benefits over other forms of voting equipment:
  • Reduces residual votes
  • Accessible to disabled people- allows a disabled voter to cast a ballot in secret
  • Decreases the possibility of human counting error
While electronic voting machines eliminate many of the problems we've seen in past elections, it also creates a host of new issues.

Some worry that electronic voting machines, which are run by computer programs, can be intentionally programmed to change the intention of the voter. Votes are recorded and stored electronically and as a result, unlike punch cards or optical scan machines, there is also no way to perform an independent recount.
One way to overcome this potential weakness is to adopt an auditable voter verified paper ballot.

Voter Verified Paper Ballots:
Many activists in the electoral reform community want to ensure that there is a way to audit an election result and protect against the possibility of electronic voting machine tampering.  For this reason, many believe that there should be a requirement that electronic voting machines print a paper ballot that the voter can verify before officially casting a vote.  This paper ballot will not be a "receipt" for the voter, but instead will be kept by the Department of Elections in case a recount is necessary.

Electile Dysfunction?
It�s Time We Face Up To Our Two-Pronged Democracy ED Problem

By Matthew Cossolotto
Published October 30th 2006 in News Release Wire

We have a serious democracy problem in America but nobody wants to talk about it. Call it �Electile Dysfunction� � or ED for short.

Yes I know the word should be �Electoral� instead of �Electile.� But the latter is funnier, so I decided to go with that. After all, I want people to read this article!

Our democracy suffers from two glaring deficiencies. One has to do with the unreliable methods we use to actually count votes. Call this the �Counting Votes Problem.�

A second, more profound issue almost never comes up in polite company. This has to do with making votes count, something that concerns the underlying voting system. Call it the �Making Votes Count Problem.�

To make progress on our two-pronged ED problem, we have to address both issues simultaneously. Otherwise, every time the elections roll around we just won�t be able to perform.

Crisis of Confidence

To his credit, CNN�s Jack Cafferty recently hosted an hour-long program about our �Broken Government,� with a long segment devoted to the widely anticipated voting machine crisis. Lou Dobbs, also on CNN, devoted an entire program recently to the looming electronic voting machine crisis.

Here we are just days away from the 2006 mid-term elections and we�re not sure whether we can trust the voting machines to provide an accurate count. Is this any way to run an election? As Cafferty, Dobbs, and many others have pointed out, the widespread use of touch screen voting machines without a verifiable paper trail (what happens if we need to do a recount?) does not exactly inspire confidence. Just the opposite, in fact. We�re facing a real crisis of confidence in our democracy.

Stories appear in the media almost every day calling attention to the fact that we�re ill-prepared for the upcoming elections. Election officials around the country are bracing for what could be a Katrina-like voting catastrophe. (I guess the election debacle in 2000 wasn�t enough of a warning that we had serious problems?)

Instead of levees breaking, the infrastructure of our democracy � the voting machines themselves and our over-burdened cadre of polling-place volunteers � is likely to be swamped with preventable crises.

The upcoming off-year election isn�t some cataclysmic natural event like a major hurricane. This is a predictable, every-two-year event. How can we find ourselves limping unprepared toward something that�s required by the Constitution?

In our relations with other countries, our ED problem is embarrassing, to say the least. Here we are exporting democracy to other countries but we�re having a hard time practicing it here at home. Democracy, like charity, should begin at home. Let�s enhance homeland democracy and then maybe we�ll have earned the right to spread democracy overseas.

Making Votes Count

Nearly every story about the fast-approaching mid-terms mentions the democracy-defying practice of �gerrymandering� � drawing designer legislative districts that protect incumbents and other candidates from the two main political parties. The media tend to unwittingly convey the impression that partisan gerrymandering is inevitable, the natural order of things. Because gerrymandering allows most incumbents to run for re-election in �safe� districts, many of stories say, only a handful of congressional seats are considered even mildly competitive.

In a very real sense, gerrymandering amounts to stuffing the ballot box BEFORE the election. It�s election fraud, pure and simple. Yet by and large the media treat gerrymandering like the weather: something we might complain about, but there�s not much we can do about it.

That�s the problem. The fact is we can change the gerrymandering sham. If the voters and the media would wake up to what�s really going on here, we could actually take back our democracy. Unfortunately, there�s no little blue pill on the market to fix our systemic ED problem.

What can be done? Here�s a short list of steps that we could take to reinvigorate our democracy. We should demand action from the next Congress on the following items.

  • Form a broadly representative, nonpartisan national commission to consider a full range of pro-democracy reforms.
  • Re-examine our traditional winner-take-all voting system. Most of the world�s mature democracies use some version of proportional voting or even instant runoff voting. We should consider these voter-empowerment systems too.
  • Change voting on Tuesdays to voting on the weekend. Alternatively, if we insist on Tuesday voting, make Election Day a national holiday.
  • End incumbent-protection gerrymandering. Take the redistricting process out of the hands self-interested politicians.
  • Get control of the obscene amount of money it takes to run for political office.
  • Finally, increase the size of the House of Representatives. The Constitution envisioned increasing the House every ten years to keep pace with population growth. But we�ve had 435 Members of the House since 1912, when our national population was a mere 100 million. We just passed the 300 million mark! It�s time to increase the supply of representation. Placing artificial restraints on supply is what self-serving, power-hungry cartels do. Hmmmm!

This is by no means an exhaustive list of possible reforms Congress should consider to stimulate voter participation. Let�s fix our ED problem and not go limply into the next election. When it comes to voter turnout and empowerment, let�s get it up America!