National Research Council Report: Committee on a Framework for Understanding Electronic Voting

A recently released report by the Committee on a Framework For Understanding Electronic Voting, National Research Council of the National Academies of Science delivers a knockout blow to today's electronic (computerized) voting industry and the supportive governmental structures spawned by the "Help America Vote (sic) Act (HAVA)".

This groundbreaking report concisely and coherently pulls together many threads of this complex topic, addressing the multitude of problems with machine-based voting in a number of ways. Reading the report, one is left with the undeniable conclusion that the only viable way to create security in our elections is through the use of a hand counted paper ballot system.

Specifically, this report states unequivocally that every polling place in the nation should have on hand paper ballots for hand counting because it is untenable to rely on voting machines for the following reasons:

1. They are insecure.
2. The products are shoddy and the vendors are unreliable.
3. Pollworkers can't be trained and voters can't be adequately educated to use them for Nov 2006.
4. They are not cost-effective and in fact are economically unfeasible due to the inherent life-cycle issues of software products.
5. They will never be able to be truly "certified" or properly tested.

There is nothing sterile or academic about the assessment of the situation and the recommendations thereof. Rather, the Committee weighed its conclusions base on the testimony of real-world experts such as Wendy Noren, Boone County Clerk of Missouri, whose dramatic testimony last February before the EAC pointed out the chaos into which the HAVA-generated voting industry has thrown us.

The report is groundbreaking too, in that--unlike all other reports of its kind--it actually includes instructions for hand counting, effectively inserting this time honored method into the public record and discourse on this subject. No longer can computerized voting proponents disregard the hand count methodology as a viable and integral part of any discussion and debate on this topic. These instructions, shown below in an excerpt from the report, come from the New Hampshire Secretary of State's office.

Download the report (you need to provide your contact information to download) and pass it around. And be proud of the patriotic integrity brought by our New Hampshire representation to the Committee.

Hand Count Method for Counting Ballots

The report includes the following description of handcounting methodology used in the Granite State (the tally method is seen in the Wilton and Lyndeborough videos, and the sort/stack/count method in the State Recount video):

Counting paper ballots is inherently manual, but there are better and worse ways of doing it. One common method is based on ballot reading and tally marks. One member of a two-person team reads the ballot, declaring those legal votes apparent from the voter’s marks. The second team member places a mark on his/her tally sheet for the candidate receiving a vote. This method involves the possibility of a mistake because the ballot is examined only once or a mistake because only one person is doing the tallying. Since this method commonly involves reading through the entire ballot, the ballot reader's eye and brain are not focused on looking for a single type of data, and thus the reader must expend mental effort to distinguish among the contests in which choices are made.

At least one state (New Hampshire), in its state recounts, has been using another process that seems to be less subject to error.

This process, based on the use of ballot sorting and piles, involves one member of a two-person team picking up the ballots and placing them in piles corresponding to each choice in a particular race. The other team member observes each ballot as it is placed in a pile. After the sorting process is complete, one team member counts each pile in stacks of 25 and then the other team member recounts each stack.

This process enables at least two persons to simultaneously examine each ballot at least once, and to keep things simple by identifying choices in a single race at a time. If one person makes a mistake, the other can catch it. This method is often modified so that each ballot is rechecked during the stack-counting process. Hence, each ballot can be seen two times by each member of the team, for a total of up to four views of each mark on a ballot in each race.

The ballot sorting and pile method, which involves as many examinations of the same ballot as there are contests, is noticeably faster than the ballot reading and tally mark approach.