S.1487: A Deconstruction -- Robert Bancroft

S.1487: A Deconstruction

By Robert Bancroft

Originally published 6/19/07 at VotersUnite.org

I am not a lawyer, nor a politician. I am neither an anchorman, nor a journalist. My qualifications to write this are few, it would seem. I am, at least, a citizen of this great nation, a citizen who does not appreciate his public servants’ attempts to meddle with our right to vote. It is my modest hope that this, alone, will warrant further reading.

In their own words
According to the authors of S.1487, the principal purpose of the bill is to modify the Help America Vote Act (2002) “to require an individual, durable, voter-verified paper record […] and for other purposes.” Other purposes include a “moratorium on acquisition of certain direct recording electronic voting systems”, the promotion of accuracy and integrity in the voting process, the requirement of manual audits, the establishment of new grants “to replace or retrofit” non-compliant equipment, and imposing “additional requirements for Federal Elections.” It all sounds good.

What is a voter-verified paper record?
For the purposes of this bill, such a record is essentially a mock-receipt. Voters first verify their vote on a computer screen, and then receive a printout which they can also verify, ultimately casting their ballot when ready. In the case of a recount or audit, the
printout is considered the “true and correct record.” Yet, the printout may be ignored, at the discretion of the State, whenever there is the vaguest fear of compromise by “damage or mischief or otherwise.” (SEC.201.(A))
The American people have serious concerns about this charlatanism.

It is misleading to suggest that, because a voter has verified a paper printout, that he or she has verified the vote itself. Under the proposed regime, the voter interacts with a user interface (touch screen), which displays a representation of the ballot. Based on secret code, the machine translates what is on the screen into binary data, unknown and unreadable to the human voter. Later, the machine, interpreting this data a second time, generates a printout, a second representation.

Think of it as an artist’s rendering of a vote. Rather than verify the vote itself, which, as it turns out, would be impossible, the voter simply compares two representations. That is what it means to vote using a direct record electronic (DRE) machine. The ideal of an open or transparent election is expressly precluded, and the very process of vote counting is declared intellectual property, a trade secret.

This is the 1st of a 7-page paper. To download the entire article in PDF format, click here.

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