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You've got votes.

In Phil Keisling's review of Aviel Rubin's Brave New Ballot ("Election Fraud, American Style," December 2006), Keisling accuses Rubin of feeding "a hyperactive (and bipartisan) obsession with the perfect election system ... [T]he idealist in him seeks a totally secure voting machine, a totally fraud-proof electoral process." Keisling is setting up a straw man. Rubin and many others who are studying this problem have no illusions that perfection is achievable. What they are trying to head off is the threat of an entirely new kind of fraud--wholesale fraud--in which a single individual could sabotage thousands or millions of ballots. Having foreclosed that threat, we'll still have to deal with the many kinds of retail election fraud that we've been managing more or less successfully since the first U.S. election.

The process of counting votes can be immunized against the kind of unprecedented wholesale fraud of which paperless DREs (direct recording

electronic voting stations) are capable. We can achieve this immunity by taking DREs out of the business of counting votes altogether.

We would transform the DREs into EBPs--electronic ballot printers. After making her selections on an EBP screen, the voter would get an 8 1/2-by-11-inch paper ballot summarizing her choices. After checking her ballot for accuracy, she would deposit it in a ballot box, just like an old-fashioned paper ballot marked by hand. After the polls closed, these machine-printed ballots could be counted by hand, by optical scanner, or both.

Since Keisling presided over the establishment of Oregon's vote-by-mail system (VBM), his umbrage at Rubin's "casually dismissive half-sentence" characterizing VBM as a "terribly insecure system" is understandable, but his defense of VBM is hardly unbiased. VBM suffers from the disadvantages of all hand-marked ballots: voters are not prevented from overvoting, nor warned about undervoting. Ballots can be invalidated by stray marks or failure to follow directions, and VBM offers new opportunities for election sabotage. Incoming filled-in ballots can be intercepted, outgoing blank ballots can be misdirected by filing false postal forwarding notices, voters' signatures can be forged, votes can be bought, voters can be coerced or intimidated, and blind, senile, or intellectually disabled voters can be "assisted."


Senior Lecturer (retired)

Department of Computer Sciences

University of Texas at Austin
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Title Annotation:LETTERS
Author:Richards, Hamilton
Publication:Washington Monthly
Article Type:Letter to the editor
Date:Mar 1, 2007
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