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‘Paper’ tigers growl for safer elections - Scrap electronic voting, say Greens

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Forget electronic voting. That’s what the New York Green Party wants the state to do, opting instead for old-fashioned paper ballots. Braving a chill wind that created real feel temperatures in the zero range, and bundled in hats and gloves, members of the Brooklyn Greens took to Cadman Plaza, right behind Borough Hall, to make the case for their preference. “We are calling for voter marked paper ballots that get counted by hand,” said Colby Hamilton, the presiding officer of the Green Party of Brooklyn. He said that many countries, including Canada, use paper ballots, and have results of elections within 24 hours. “Voters expect accountabi­lity,” as they would get at ATMs, Hamilton noted, “but, for some reason, election officials don’t seem to think they have to have that level of accountabi­lity.” Electronic machines allow for the possibility of miscounts, either deliberately or accidentally, contended Hamilton, demonstrating how it could happen using a laptop computer brought along for precisely that purpose. “Voters have no idea if their votes have miscarried,” he stressed, “At the end of the day, the problem with all electronic voting machines is there’s no way to know” if votes have been recorded accurately or if votes have been lost. “The bad thing is that optical scanners still have chips and can still be hacked,” added Gloria Mattera, the co-chairperson of the New York State Green Party. The ability to detect such activity is also limited, she noted. “The law requires only that a random three percent (of votes cast) be verified.” If the state goes electronic for voting, Hamilton said, it will “Turn into California or Florida or Ohio. It’s certain you will have questions that can’t be answered when you use an electronic system.” “Our entire democratic process is in jeopardy,” Hamilton asserted. “If you can’t trust that your vote is being counted, how can you trust the people who are in office?” The New York City Board of Elections must make a decision soon as to what system it will select. New York State is required, under the Help America Vote Act (HAVA), to replace all its old lever machines with ones that are handicapped-accessible and recountable, and which provided a second chance to vote, in case of error. HAVA was enacted in the wake of the controversial 2000 presidential election. New York is the last state in the United States to comply with HAVA, and is required to do so by the next primary election, or face the loss of over $50 million in federal funding targeted at updating voting technology. While the Greens want a paper ballot system, many other parties who have inserted themselves into the debate – including the League of Women Voters, the Task Force on Election Integrity of the Community Church of New York, and New Yorkers for Verified Voting – are advocating the use of optical scanners as the best voting technology available. Benefits of optical scanners include the fact that voters are marking their choices on paper ballots that are stored in a sealed box attached to the scanner, making verification possible; considerably lower cost for purchasing and maintaining the voting machines; speed of use and ease of ability to be understood by those who are not necessarily computer-literate. Between DREs and optical scanners, the Greens acknowledge preferring the scanners as well, though, Hamilton stressed, “Both have computers that tally votes. If that’s all you have, you still have the possibility of fraud. Because something is faster, it doesn’t mean it’s better. If you have to give up democracy to have faster results, that’s a pretty bad choice.” The message being espoused by the Greens didn’t fall on deaf ears, despite the plethora of woolly caps and earmuffs covering them. “I hate electronic voting,” noted one man as he passed by. While one woman who stopped to talk to the Green Party members expressed shock at what they were saying. “I don’t feel confident” with electronic voting,” noted Victoria Carnese of Park Slope. There have been problems, she added, “Across the U.S.”

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