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Doug Forrester


Voter-verifed Paper Ballots (VVPB)

Having spoken with election officials in every NJ county, it seems that the Attorney General has been pressuring counties to buy Sequoia Electronic Voting machines, in spite of legislation poised to become law (S29 and A33) in the state legislature, which would require VVPB. Furthermore, Sequoia has no retrofittable printer in the pipeline in spite of promises and assurances to the contrary to counties like Mercer.

Admittedly, the legislation is flawed - with the date changed to 2008, the Attorney General able to grant waivers, and no mandatory random audits.

There are several issues here: one is the software on electronic voting machines is proprietary and secret. Even assuming good will on the part of all involved, computer scientists agree that there is no such thing as bug-free software. There have been instances all across the country where these machines have been tampered with or flawed, in one county in NC adding 3000 more votes than there were registered voters.

Another issue is the recount: while some election officials claim you can do recounts with these electronic voting machines, this is a misunderstanding perpetrated by the companies. As a computer programmer, I know that whether you run a computer program once or one hundred times, the result will always be the same. Even if this number was stored in more than one place, it is clearly not the same as a recount. Some machines can print out each "ballot" again. This is irrelevant because in the voters never got to verify that their votes were being stored correctly in the first place. And unbelievably, counties in NJ have been told by the Attorney General that even if their machines are so equipped, they cannot use and must cover up their voter-verifiable paper ballot function.

These electronic voting systems are nowhere near as secure as the computers used in gambling, in financial institutions, or in the food industry, where the code is tested and audited regularly and there are clearly defined standards. In spite of all the billions of dollars spent safeguarding them, those systems are regularly hacked into.

We need machines with a paper ballot verified by the voter, stored in random order to preserve anonymity, in a locked box within the machine. In a recount, these paper ballots can be counted. Furthermore, the machine code can be tested comparing the paper ballot with the electronic result, in other words audited.

Friends are amused when I tell them how we voted in Vermont: a paper ballot filled out and deposited in a rubber trash can.   But every step of that process can be monitored and made secure in an open, transparent way.  Meanwhile, in NJ, no one sees my vote being recorded, stored, or counted!

If we can not trust our election process, we are in danger of becoming a democracy in name only.

If Senator Corzine is truly interested in clean government, and I believe he is, election reform should be a key component. I strongly urge the Senator to come out with whole-hearted support for audited VVPB in the US Senate and in New Jersey!

Kathy Johnson
Voting Task Force

by krj on July 01 at 11:41 AM EST


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