Note: I wrote this page in 2006. The comments remain valid 10 years later, but most of the links are broken. Some of the broken links on this page are followed by an [X].
Issues : First Principles
- Voting is a non-partisan issue that concerns every American.
- Every American must be able to exercise their right to vote, and to have that vote counted as cast.
- Every essential step of the voting process must be checkable. In the words of Ronald Reagan, “Trust, but verify“.
- Nobody, and no machine, should be conducting elections in secret.
See also: Secretary of State Debra Bowen’s Voter’s Bill of Rights[X],
and: League of Women Voters Supports Paper Records[X],
We have in California and the United States …
- voting systems that are proven hackable
- a testing and certification system that is seriously broken
- corrupt, abusive, and partisan voting machine companies
- voting systems that are illegal[X]
- leaky chain of custody procedures[X] that cannot plug security holes
- weak audit and recount procedures that are nonexistent or not followed
- some elections officials who are corrupt[X]
- poorly paid, poorly trained and overworked election volunteers
- voting systems that are too expensive[X]
- a chaotic elections “system”, with thousands of counties ill equipped to run their own complex elections using advanced computer technology
- restrictive voter registration systems with no public review, testing or certification
- an elections system that discourages participation[X]
- a country with a long history of vote fraud[X]
To develop fair and accurate elections, I suggest the following:
- Votes should be marked on paper ballots that can easily be checked by voters and counted by election workers. Rolls of paper are not up to the task.
- Tight chain-of-custody procedures[X] that will treat our elections as mission critical, as if a multi-trillion dollar economy depended on it. The current band-aids are too vulnerable.
- Much stricter enforcement of election laws, especially with election officials who regularly flaunt them.
- All software, firmware, and hardware should be available for public inspection. Open source software[X] is preferable for election systems because it is more secure, more accessible and less expensive. Unnecessary modules should be stripped out, and the use of uninspected commercial software kept to an absolute minimum.
- Verification that the code in the machines on election day comes from the inspected, tested and certified source code.
- Every American should be free to go to the polls without encumbrance on election day. There needs to be more and better trained poll workers. Therefore, we should make election day a non-work day. For example, Congress could move Veterans’ Day to Election Day in November. States could hold elections on Saturday as Louisiana regularly does. Holding elections on work days make it much harder for many dedicated workers to vote, and helps to create long lines in the morning and evening. At the very least, non-essential government workers should be encouraged to work as poll workers. FYI: HR 254 has been introduced in Congress in 2009 to move elections to the weekend.
- There should be two shifts for poll workers, as a 15+ hour day is too long.
- The post-election day canvas period is far too short to conduct proper audits and recounts, as Florida 2000 showed. Congress should move all dates relative to when the Electoral College meets back by several weeks, thus allowing needed time for counties and states to conduct audits and recounts properly. States should also extend the time they allow for auditing an recounts. Ballots have gotten much longer, and the Electoral College no longer needs weeks to travel.
- We need to encourage public monitoring[X] of elections. This includes quick and affordable access to election data and public records. It also includes the right to film all phases of an election, except the actual voting. Where possible, testing, tabulating and auditing procedures should be televised on local cable TV.
- There is much election data that officials can post on web sites. The most important of these are detailed precinct reports, and ballot images. Click here for a more complete list.
- Voters should be notified by mail and, if possible, by phone, at least three months before an election before their name is purged from a voter registration database. They should be allowed to present the documents necessary to maintain their right to vote. These databases are being abused to keep Americans from voting.
- The counter-productive Election Assistance Commission should be put into the hands of responsible, accountable, knowledgeable professionals whose primary concern is fair and accurate elections.
- We need thorough public testing and certification of all elections systems by competent, independent testers, including voter registration databases and computerized poll books. This includes security testing. Public observers should be able to film all testing.
- All wireless devices[X] should be removed from all elections systems or at least physically disabled. This needs to be checked on election day.
- All direct or indirect internet connections to any machine that records or counts votes must be banned.
- Election observers should be able to read what is on the screen for the very important central tabulator. This can be easily arranged by hooking a second monitor to the computer, and placing that monitor in the observers’ area.
- Ideally, votes should be counted and thoroughly hand audited at least 2 different ways, by different organizations and/or machines made by different producers. Audit and recount procedures need to be thoroughly thought out and defined. 100% recounts need to be much cheaper, and more frequent. The public needs to be confident that at least 99% of the certified election results are statistically correct. Click here for more suggestions on auditing.
I’m a software engineer. Yet I feel like one of the civil engineers who were warning the politicians that the levees of New Orleans would break. And we’ve seen what happens when politicians ignore the engineers. I created CountedAsCast.com to warn Americans that, not only will the levees of democracy, our voting systems, break, they are already breaking. This is too important to ignore; our democracy is at risk. I urge you to read the materials presented here and inform everybody you know about the situation, especially our government officials. Thank you.
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