Tags: politics

It's been a while

It's been a while since my last post.. guess I'll start with this.

http://politics.slashdot.org/article.pl?sid=06/03/29/1551202

Basically Diebold makes voting machines that may be subject to tampering that can't be detected. And they want claim that only they can certify whether or not the machines have been tampered with. My question is why are Americans allowing a corporation (an organization supposedly only accountable to it's shareholders) have this kind of control over the voting process in the states that rely on these machines.. for that matter why are they using machines to do a job that is best done by people.

Seeing as I have worked several Federal and Provincial elections here in Canada I have a pretty good idea of how the system works up here. I know some people State side argue that a process that is done by hand is open to fraud. The way it is done here makes any attempt at fraud unlikely to have any real effect and is very likely to result in you and possibly your candidate winding up charged.

Federal elections are run by Elections Canada, an organization funded by the federal government whose sole purpose to assure that federal elections are honest and fair. When a voter enters a polling place they go to a table that will have a Poll Clerk and a Deputy Returning Officer. The Poll Clerk handles much of the extra paperwork (to ensure that the # of voters = the # of ballots handed out, any forms are filed correctly, etc) and the DRO's job is to give the voter the ballot. The DRO is the ONLY person allowed (other then the voter) allowed to touch the ballot. There are a variety of checks and balances in place to prevent loss of ballots, extra ballots, ballots from other polling stations, etc from occuring (I won't go into full detail because it would make this post far longer then it is already going to be). The voter takes their folded ballot behind the screen, fills it out and returns to the table with the ballot (again folded), which the DRO then takes removes the tracking stub and then returns to the voter so the voter can place it in the ballot box. Sitting near the Polling Station (not right at it) may be representatives from each of the candidates running for office. These candidates may lodge objections (which get logged in the Poll log, along with pretty near anything other then a normal ballot) but the DRO has final say on all matters (although any rep can lodge a complaint to the Returning Office which might trigger a recount for that poll). Since all candidates are allowed to have reps present to observe the vote (and later the vote count) any major fraud would require the collusion of all the representatives present, the DRO and the Poll Clerk and any other officials at the Poll (and Polling Place with more then 4 Polling Stations will have a SRO as well, a Revision Agent and possibly someone to direct traffic). Since the Reps are all working for competing candidates this is unlikely (in the same way that it is hard to breath in deep space if your not wearing a space suit). When the poll closes the box is opened the DRO sorts the ballots into piles (showing every ballot to the Reps) while the Clerk keeps a running tally (which the Reps may look at any time they wish). Any Rep can at any time lodge an objection to any ballot (this again gets logged), but the DRO still has final say on how the ballot in question is tallied. When a poll has finished counting it's ballots the final results are written down on a form, each pile goes into a seperate envelope which is sealed (and marked appropriatly) all the forms go into the appropriate envelopes (there are a LOT of them) most of the envelopes go into a large heavy mylar envelope which is then sealed almost everything goes into the ballot box which is also sealed and the ballot box is then returned to the Returning Office. This is so that if a challenge to the result is lodged (unlikely unless the result was close) the ballots can easily be recounted without any likelyhood of tampering.

Ok.. this post is already fairly long so I'll keep this part short. A common stand against paper balloting in the US is that it would take to long. Every Federal and Provincial election in Canada is all paper ballots and the results of 90% of the polls are in within 3 hours of the polls closing (which is staggered somewhat to ensure that few of the eastern polls are finished counting when the western polls close). Within 6 hours of the last western polls closing few if any polls are still counting ballots.

Yes, this system involves a lot of work, yes the checks and balances result in a lot of book keeping, yes this probably costs more then the average American election on a per seat basis. But from my point of view you can't put a price on democracy, and trusting a machine to be free from simple error (let alone tampering) is just plain stupid.
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