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NY: This county knows who won (Does YOURS?) [View All]

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Bill Bored Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Dec-28-10 04:20 AM
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NY: This county knows who won (Does YOURS?)
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Edited on Tue Dec-28-10 04:22 AM by Bill Bored

Your vote counts: This county knows who won
Friday, 17 December 2010

WITHOUT CONFIDENCE in our elections, is this really a democracy?

When you hear about suspect elections in one country or another, what do you assume? That it's not a democracy. We know we're a democracy when we can trust our elections.

This year, the first in which every single vote was cast on a paper ballot, Columbia County hand-counted each and every one. Before the election, Commissioner Jason Nastke and I ordered a full hand count so that our county's voters could have complete confidence in the vote totals that we'd certify after the election. Who could distrust hand counts that are done by teams of Democrats and Republicans, with one looking over the shoulder of the other every step of the way?

Columbia is the only county that did this, though. Other counties conducted an audit of 3% of their voting machines, which is the minimum required by our new state election law. (If a certain number of machine errors are found, the audit must escalate to 8%; then, if more errors are found, to 20%, and potentially to 100%.)

There's a world of difference between 3% and 100%, and we're not just talking about the time involved or the cost of hiring ballot counters. The key difference is that, with our 100% audit, we commissioners and this county's voting public can have unparalleled confidence in our results.


But competent statisticians and audit experts will tell you that New York State's 3% audit doesn't provide anything near that high degree of confidence.

A 3% audit would have us hand-count all the ballots from just two machines (randomly selected) of the 45 we deployed countywide on Election Day.


Absent a 100% audit, election law provides protection, of sorts, to a losing candidate who's skeptical of the results. The candidate can go before a judge to get a court order to have all the ballots hand counted. But there are no guarantees. In Nassau County's 7th Senate District race, with a difference of only 451 votes out of the more than 85,000 ballots cast, the judge rejected the loser's request.


Virginia Martin is the Democratic commissioner of the Columbia County Board of Elections.
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