Monday, November 06, 2006

Let's get voting right!

I'm hopeful the the Progressives will have a huge and leavening effect on the country. But among all the very good agenda items on the Progressive plate, LET'S GET VOTING RIGHT!

Living in Rhode Island, I feel pretty lucky about how we vote. Using a felt tip pen, I mark the paper ballot. Then I walk over and feed it to the machine, which pulls it in and counts my vote. If any tally is in doubt, my paper ballot is there as backup.

The new electronic machines used elsewhere either leave no physical evidence or they print out a confirmation slip for the voter. While this sounds reassuring, as a former computer programmer, I know how EASY it would be to produce a printout that deliberately lies. The machine could be manipulated through software to count the vote differently, but print a receipt that makes it look like what the voter entered was what the machine counted.

If procedures to print the receipt, have it approved by the voter, and securely stored are rigorously followed - the same as should be done for paper ballots - then this method would be acceptable. These days democracy requires eagle-eyed monitors of both parties at every polling place and ballot handling facility to ensure such prodedures are carried out.

The American election should be a model of citizen confidence and transparency. Voting machines are fine. Mail-in ballots are fine. But always the vote must be verifiable - by humans, not machines.

Gail Murray 11/6/06