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NY (Election Commisioner) Letter: Columbia County Will Continue to Fight for Lever Voting

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Wilms Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Apr-29-10 11:44 PM
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NY (Election Commisioner) Letter: Columbia County Will Continue to Fight for Lever Voting

LETTER: Columbia County Will Continue to Fight

Thursday, April 29, 2010


First, in specifying required criteria, HAVAs Section 201 (a) (1) (A) refers to voting systems not just voting machines. HAVA defines a voting system as a combination of machines and methods. Thus in New York, a lever voting system may comprise a lever machine, a paper ballot-marking device for voters with disabilities, a hand count of all the paper ballots, and the manually prepared Statement of Canvass a permanent paper record of the total vote cast at each poll site.

OKeefe says HAVA requires that voting machines be accessible to disabled voters. But its clear that its not voting machines, but voting systems, that must be accessible.

She says that HAVA requires that a voting machine produce a permanent paper trail with a manual audit capacity, something she says lever machines do not. But, again, HAVA requires this of a system, not a machine. A permanent paper trail is most certainly created by a lever voting system at the close of polls under the watchful eyes of the public. HAVAs audit language was developed to address the inherent shortcoming of a computerized vote tally. That said, a lever voting system easily meets HAVAs audit requirements.

She says boards of election must be able to recreate the vote after the election by reference to the paper trail. But the only reason to recreate the vote is if the equipment in use produces, by its very nature, results that are likely to be incorrect. Thats why, when computers are involved, a paper trail of every vote cast is absolutely essential. In a lever-machine election, no paper trail reflecting every single transaction is needed. If a lever machine is well-maintained and all the legally required checks are made, the chance that something will go wrong with the machine is infinitesimal.


If I worked for the Legislature, I might try to defend it work too. But I work for the voters and the taxpayers. As an official tasked with certifying to the correctness of election results, I must defend the voting processes that guarantee our democracy. And so I am compelled to resist with every ounce of my strength and legislation that removes from us, the people the ability to oversee any single aspect of our elections. And thats why Nassau and now Columbia counties are doing the right thing by bucking the state to fight against it.



The writer, a Democrat, is an elections commissioner in Columbia County.


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aquart Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Apr-29-10 11:51 PM
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Bill Bored Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Apr-29-10 11:53 PM
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2. Isn't that the election official who said she wouldn't certify a computer-counted election...
...without a proper audit?
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Wilms Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Apr-30-10 12:05 AM
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3. Of course she's the one who said it. And she meant it, too!
Edited on Fri Apr-30-10 01:04 AM by Wilms
It's one thing to go on and on about paper ballots and Verified Voting. It's quite another to demand it. Virginia Martin is a New Yorker who knows what TEETH are required for secure elections.


- edit to add testimony of Virginia Martin -

If Columbia County starts using software to count votes, I will not certify an election unless an appropriately designed audit of the paper ballots is conducted. So far, the State Board has not mandated an audit that audit experts agree will expose inaccurate counts. If my county implements computerized voting, I will demand an appropriate audit. It will be expensive, though, and I know how well that will go over with my fiscally stressed county, especially after paying for all the other associated expenses. Im afraid the county would not budget the funds needed to ensure my confidence, and if it didnt, I wouldnt certify the election. The high cost of auditing has other counties calling for less-stringent audit regulations. I shudder to think what the result to democracy will be if they get their way.

    Statement to the New York State Assembly committees on
    Election Law, Education, and Libraries and Education Technology
    and the Subcommittee on Election Day Operations and Voter Disenfranchisement
    October 22, 2009
    Assembly Hearing Room, 250 Broadway, New York, NY
    Virginia Martin, Democratic Commissioner, Columbia County Board of Elections

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diva77 Donating Member (999 posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Apr-30-10 01:52 AM
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4. Every precinct could easily have a 100% audit of the vote count if counties did sort & stack
hand counting of paper ballots. The costs would be miniscule compared to software & audits -- simply merge summoning of citizens for handcounting on election night with the jury-summoning system.

It seems outrageous that people ignore as a first resort what they ultimately resort to when they want to find the TRUE results -- that is, a public hand count of votes cast in secret on paper ballots.
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Peace Patriot Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat May-01-10 07:09 AM
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5. This is the noblest democracy fight in the world--the NY resistance to 'TRADE SECRET' vote counting!
NO ONE has a right to review the PRIVATE, 'TRADE SECRET,' PROPRIETARY CODE by which our votes are supposedly counted, now endemic in voting systems across the U.S., owned and controlled essentially by ONE corporation--ES&S, which just bought out Diebold, is worse than Diebold as to far rightwing connections, and now has an 80% monopoly of the U.S. voting machine 'market'--with virtually no audit/recount controls. This is the fight of fights. This is American Revolution II.

Either we get rid of 'TRADE SECRET' vote counting, or our democracy is OVER.

NY's old, reliable lever machines are not only publicly owned and fully paid for, they are the MOST transparent voting system next to hand-counted paper ballots. If NY were to change systems, the ONLY system they should change to is HAND-COUNTED PAPER BALLOTS. The state is forcing NY to go the other way--toward near total non-transparency with a corporate-run, privatized electronic system. NY was the last hold-out against this egregiously anti-democratic madness that was forced on the country starting in 2002. ES&S won that battle. Their victory over U.S. democracy is complete--except for these two hold-out counties in NY. The corpo-fascist media is now writing the false narrative by which the Bushwhacks get back the White House and the far rightwing corporation which now dictates 80% of the election results in the U.S. can easily--EASILY!--make that happen, if our corporate rulers decide to.

We must change this. We MUST!
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BPfaffenberger Donating Member (1 posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat May-01-10 07:52 PM
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I love Virginia Martin's letter and her courage -- and I am grateful for her insight. I've been working on the history of lever voting machines and New York election law for some years now, and I find it illuminating to think of New York's elections as a system -- that is, a collection of components that have been adapted to each other so they work smoothly and achieve their purpose.

Lever voting machines represent an embodiment of the wisdom acquired in New York's century-long struggle to deal with unbelievably sweeping currents of social change (industrialization,urbanization, immigration) and the onset of world-class corruption. Virginia knows that, in every election, the procedures, laws, people, and machinery constitute a collectivity -- a system -- that bring the hard-won principles of that century of struggle to life: bipartisan observation of every process that could be corrupted, and above all else, a "get it right on election night" philosophy that refrains from projecting ambiguous election data into the volatile post-election environment.

Conceptualized as a system, there's no doubt in my mind that New York meets HAVA's requirements.

But there's more. It is clear from the plain text of HAVA that Congress intended HAVA's voting system requirements to be read very loosely. For example, one such requirement is that voters ought to be able to change their votes before finalizing them, which lever machines of course can do. But HAVA provides an exemption for centrally located optical scan systems, which do NOT provide voters an opportunity to remedy an error. This exemption says that the state just needs to educate voters about the need to be careful about overvoting.

Any reasonable person should be able to see, in light of the hugely fuzzy way that HAVA interprets its own requirements, that there's plenty of room for Virginia's interpretation.

--Bryan Pfaffenberger, Charlottesville, VA
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Wilms Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun May-02-10 09:33 PM
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7. Hey! Welcome to DU!
I appreciate your thoughtful advocacy.

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Wilms Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Jun-18-10 12:25 AM
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8. .
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