Wednesday, March 08, 2006

What IS the argument against paper ballots?

Like it or not, when it comes to elections, Florida does not have a good reputation. After the 2000 fiasco, one would think our politicians in Tallahassee would have taken the bull by the horns: implement REAL reform and set the example for every other state. They could have taken a bad situation and turned it into a positive if they were committed. The only problem is- they weren’t really that committed.

So for the upcoming elections in 2006, we are still faced with having VERY partisan elections supervisors, gerrymandered districts, unfair “felon” lists, (remember 2004: 22,000 African Americans (likely Democrats) and only 61 Hispanics (likely Republicans)?, and worst of all, machines with no verified paper ballots.

Paper ballots should be a No-Brainer. Verified paper ballots would rarely have to be counted, but it would give ALL Floridians the confidence that their vote actually counted. If elections are free and fair, there is absolutely no reason not to have them. So what could be the argument against paper ballots?

One argument the politicians have used against them is that we can't possibly count all that paper. This is ridiculous on so many levels. What the heck did we do before there were electronic ballots? Also, there is a little something called “ATM receipts”. Banks run ATMs using software from the very companies (yes, such as Diebold) that make election machines. Banks deal with millions of transactions every day, and you always get a receipt when you complete the transaction. And unlike elections, bank receipts have to be 100% right each and every time with no margin of error.

The GOP even contradicts itself on this issue. In 2004, South Florida republicans were told in a flier that since touch screens lack a paper trail, that they should vote absentee in order to “Make sure your vote counts.”

Here in Seminole County, funding was approved for paperless touch-screens to supplement Seminole's optical-scan systems.

What is disturbing is that Channel 2 ran a story recently

that Ion Sancho, Leon County's Supervisor of Elections, tested the Diebold machines and found that workers were able to successfully hack in and change the results. The exact same machines, by the way, that are used in Volusia, Brevard, Osceola, and right here in Seminole.

Fight back: This is where the people of Florida shine: we usually take action when our legislators don’t. That is why it was the citizens of Florida that came together to demand fair redistricting, which will be on the ballot this November. (Another GOP contradiction: Jeb supported independent redistricting in California, but is fighting it tooth and nail here).

It is time we came together to demand paper ballots for electronic voting machines. Start by urging your representative to co-sponsor HR-550.

Also, it is crucial to elect truly fair elections supervisors who are committed to real election reform. You have an opportunity right here in Seminole County: her name is Marian Williams. She has pledged to provide a paper trail for electronic touch screen voting, to bring in independent auditors to certify and test both the touch screen voting machines and optical scanners before the elections, and to restore confidence in our system. She is someone everyone should vote for regardless of party affiliation, but she won't win without a commitment of support from volunteers. Truckloads of volunteers canvassed for city council elections last November; I think we can do the same for this very important race.

Election reform is probably the most important issue facing our county and country, because if people lose faith in our elections, they lose faith in democracy. In an ideal world, every politician, even those with an ideological agenda, would be supporting reforms that ensure free and fair elections because that is what democracy is all about. The current system has worked well for the GOP, so I understand their reluctance to change anything. But I ask my GOP friends this:
If your platform is really representative of the majority, as you claim, then what do you have to fear? However, if you are against election reform because you are truly afraid it might hurt the agenda of your current party affiliation, it may be time to rethink that affiliation.