Opposition to Electronic Voting
Members of the Steuben Greens have been active on the issue of electronic
voting. We are currently supporting efforts organized by the Finger Lakes
Progressive Coalition to get a resolution on safeguards for electronic
voting introduced in the Steuben County legislature. Local voting activists
Susan and Gray Multer presented information about electronic voting issues
at our October 2003 meeting and we have been following state and national
Testimony Recommending Paper Ballots
April 23, 2003 Assembly Hearings in Rochester on
New York State's Implementation of the Help America Vote Act
Statement of Rachel Treichler, Green Party member, 2002 Green Party candidate
for Congress, 29th C.D.
I have three points to make:
1. New York state should implement voting by mail like the state of Oregon.
Voting by mail would significantly increase voter participation in this
state. We should not adopt electronic voting machines. The loss of voter
confidence that would result from the implementation of electronic voting
machines would further reduce voter participation in this state.
2. Voter guides should be produced and mailed to all registered voters
before an election. Providing necessary information about the candidates
and the election process will increase voter participation
3. The domination of the HAVA Task Force in New York by Republicans and
Democrats is undemocratic and violates the Help America Vote Act.
Let me elaborate these points.
New York should implement voting by mail
Vote-by-mail elections, conducted dozens of times at the local level
in Oregon, Washington and Colorado and statewide in Oregon five times,
significantly expand voter participation.
Studies show that in Oregon, where elections have been conducted solely
by mail since 1998, mail ballots have increased voter participation by
an average of nine percentage points. In 2000, nearly 80 percent of registered
voters participated in Oregon's first all vote-by-mail presidential election,
as opposed to 51 percent voter turnout nationwide. In the state of Washington,
where voters may elect to vote-by-mail, using a permanent absentee ballot,
60% have chosen to do so.
Many voters in Colorado are voting by mail using a permanent absentee
ballot system similar to Washington's. In the 2001 November election,
75% of Colorado voters voted in a mail ballot election. Over half of Colorado's
counties, including Denver, and Boulder, chose to hold mail ballot elections
rather than polling place elections in November 2001. In the November
2001 election, the Colorado counties that conducted mail ballot elections
had an average voter turnout rate of 41% of eligible voters. Counties
that conducted traditional polling place elections had an average turnout
rate of only 32%..
Contrast this to New York, where in the 2002 elections in New York, only
30% of eligible voters turned out to vote.
Why does voting by mail increase voter turnout? The principal reasons
1. Its easier. Voters who are without transportation, disabled, or busy
at work, can vote, and that
2. A voter can take as much time as time as he or she needs to understand
the ballot and how the voting process works.
According to Oregon Secretary of State Bill Bradbury writing in The New
York Times on August 21, 2001, "It's not just that voters are attracted
to the convenience of a system that allows them flexibility and works
with their busy lifestyles. A major reason people like it is that they
feel it allows them to better make informed choices. When asked to list
the advantages of voting by mail in the Washington survey, convenience
and “more time to participate and study the issues” were tied
as the No. 1 responses."
Mail balloting saves voters time, money, and gasoline. It solves problems
of voting access for the disabled, it eliminates the problem of voter
IDs for first time voters and it accommodates preferential voting.
Voting by mail offers advantages to tax payers and election officials
Voter lists are much easier to accurately maintain with mail balloting.
This is because ballots that are returned to election officials as undeliverable
highlight registrations that must be checked. This helps election officials
purge their registration rolls of ineligible voters.
And last, but not least, voting by mail is cheaper!
A Federal Election Commission book discusses the advantages of mail balloting
for election administrators, "Innovations in Election Administration
11: All-Mail-Ballot Elections", notes that no pollworkers and no
polling places are required with voting by mail:
No pollworkers includes: no recruitment; no notices to be sent; no classes
to conduct; no distribution and retrieval of election day supplies; no
last-minute cancellations from workers who had agreed to serve; no paychecks
to cut and mail; no W-2’s to send; no pre-dawn election-day hours
to line up replacement workers.
No polling places includes no polling place leases, telephones, utilities;
no searching for or preparation of accessible locations; no frantic phone
calls about locked doors; no preparation, set-up, tear-down, or emergency
repairs of voting machines or devices; no confusion about where people
must go to vote.
At a time of economic crisis in our state, we should not be buying expensive
new voting machines when a far cheaper and more effective method of voting
New York should not purchase electronic voting machines
Do not be seduced by the apparent convenience of "touch-screen voting"
machines, or the "gee whiz" factor that accompanies flashy new
technology. These machines represent a serious threat to democracy. They
give control of vote counting to the private company that programs the
machines, with no independent checks or audits. Much better alternatives
are available for upgrading voting equipment.
Stanford computer Professor David Dill and the 110 computer scientists
and technologists from universities and laboratories across the nation
who have signed Professor Dill's "Resolution on Electronic Voting,"
tell us that all computer systems are subject to subtle errors. Moreover,
computer systems can be deliberately corrupted at any stage of their design,
manufacture, and use. The methods used to do this can be extremely difficult
to foresee and detect. Without a voter-verifiable audit trail, it is not
practical to provide reasonable assurance of the integrity of electronic
voting systems by any combination of design review, inspection, testing,
logical analysis, or control of the system development process.
The only tried-and-true technology for providing a voter-verified audit
trail is a paper ballot, where the votes recorded can be easily read and
checked by the voter.
If New York were to implement the use of electronic voting machines,
which as I have said, provide no reliable way to detect errors in recording
votes or deliberate election rigging, the results of any election conducted
using these machines will be open to legal challenge. The Supreme Court
has repeatedly held that a constitutionally protected right to vote and
to have their votes counted.
When electronic voting machines are used in voting booths, three violations
of federal law take place:
1. Inability to observe if voting machines properly register votes
2. Inability to observe if voting machines properly count votes
3. Inability to enforce the Voting Rights Act, because of the inability
to observe if voting machines are properly registering or counting votes
Of course, use of appropriate voting methods is not sufficient to guarantee
election integrity. Elections must be administered to minimize the possibility
of error and fraud, and maximize the likelihood of detecting them if they
occur. Audits must not only be possible, audits must actually be conducted.
If electronic counts are used from machines that also print ballots, or
if paper ballots are counted electronically, manual recounts must be conducted
with enough frequency to make the detection of error or fraud likely.
Voting by mail is a safe and secure way to conduct elections.
Colorado counties have been conducting mail ballot elections and handling
high numbers of absentee ballots for years, yet reports of fraud or voter
coercion are virtually non-existent.
There were no substantiated cases of vote fraud in Oregon in 2000. Tens
of millions of ballots have been voted by mail in Oregon over the years,
and election officials report no fraud problems.
A Federal Election Commission survey found that election officials across
the country who had conducted mail ballot elections believed them to be
just as secure as polling place elections.
Voter guides should be produced and mailed to all registered voters
before an election
Providing necessary information about the candidates and the election
process will increase voter participation.
Other states have been much more active in publishing voter guides which
are mailed to all registered voters before an election. New York must
take this opportunity to do that and to also use the federal funds that
HAVA provides to expand and investigate new ways to educate all voters,
new and old. Studies show that even longtime voters have erroneous ideas
about the voting process and their rights and responsibilities.
The domination of the HAVA Task Force in New York by Republicans and
Democrats is undemocratic and violates the Help America Vote Act.
Unlike other states, the New York task force fails to include a broad
representation of other political parties and community groups. This does
not serve democracy in our state.