A decade after Dana Debeauvoir helped change Travis County, Texas to an all-electronic voting system she still expects to be falsely accused of fixing the coming election, just as she had in the last two presidential races. The clerk, who has administered voting for 25 years in the county that includes Austin, says the public has remained mistrustful of the ballot system, where voters pick candidates directly from a computer screen, without marking a piece of paper. “There have been so many hard feelings,” says Debeauvoir. “You get people saying ‘I know you have been flipping votes.’” In the wake of the hanging chad controversy surrounding the 2000 presidential elections, the federal government encouraged election administrators across the country to switch to electronic systems and mandated upgrades to many election procedures. As they prepare for the presidential elections, those officials now find themselves at the center of a continuing debate over whether paperless direct-record electronic (DRE) balloting can be trusted – what Debeauvoir calls the “DRE wars.”
The controversy centers on 16 states, including Texas, New Jersey and Maryland, where some or all counties do not back up electronic ballots with a paper record that voters can inspect before leaving the booth, according to Pamela Smith, president of the Verified Voting Foundation, an activist group that opposes paperless voting. Critics say the public needs a paper trail of the votes to be sure that software glitches, hardware malfunctions or hacking haven’t corrupted election results. “It is horrifying and people should be horrified,” said Penny Venetis, a Rutgers law professor who sued New Jersey in 2004 to force the state to maintain paper backups of its electronic ballots. “Right now we have no way to check that votes were actually cast properly.”
Critics cite numerous cases of malfunctioning electronic voting systems in recent years. In New York state’s 2010 primary and general elections, an overheated machine in New York City’s South Bronx incorrectly invalidated hundreds of votes because it misread the optically scanned ballots. The errors were discovered when the New York Daily News demanded to inspect the scanned paper ballots using the state’s Freedom of Information Law, more than a year later. The problem was only uncovered because, unlike in states like Maryland and Texas, New York mandates a paper record, for use in audits and hand-counts if the election is close, said Douglas Kellner, co-chair of the state’s Board of Elections. “The paper votes are critical for determining that you are counting accurately,” says Kellner. “Without a paper audit trail, all you can do is trust the results.”
Full Article: Decade-Old E-Voting ‘Wars’ Continue into Presidential Election – The CIO Report – WSJ.